Israel ponders new West Bank settlement freeze: sources

JERUSALEM- Israel's cabinet will on Sunday discuss a US proposition to impose a new settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank for 90 days, but the proposal does not include East Jerusalem, a source said.
The proposed moratorium would be backed by US security measures, a source close to the dossier said late Saturday. It would be discussed during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The potential freeze would cover not just future construction but work undertaken since September 26, when the previous 10-month government moratorium called by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expired, the source added.
The United States had promised Israel it would not ask for an additional settlement freeze after that 90-day period, the source added.
Netanyahu has so far opposed any extension of the 10-month freeze.
But it was the end of the freeze on settlement building that led to the suspension of US-brokered talks with the Palestinians, relaunched on September 2.
It also provoked criticism from Washington and the wider international community.
Palestinians have insisted that settlement building must be frozen -- not just in the West Bank but in the mainly Arab East Jerusalem -- before talks with Israel can resume.
The source said that Washington, in a bid to keep hopes of peace talks alive, had also agreed to veto any move in the United Nations Security Council or any other international body designed to pressure Israel over the issue.
On Wednesday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Israeli settlement building.
US President Barack Obama's administration would also seek approval from the US Congress to deliver an extra 20 warplanes, worth three billion dollars, to help Israel keep its military edge in the region, the source added.
Washington also wanted to conclude a global security agreement with Israel -- in parallel with a deal with the Palestinians -- to meet "Israel's security needs," said the source.
Talks on such a deal were expected to begin in the coming weeks, the source added.
This latest initiative comes soon after Netanyahu's visit to the United States, during which he held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for more than seven hours Thursday.
Several of the Israeli leader's colleagues in the government bitterly oppose any freeze on settlement building.
They include ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Interior Minister Elie Yishai, leader of the religious Shas party, who is also deputy prime minister.

Sunday, November 14th 2010

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