Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has agreed to push his cabinet to halt construction of West Bank settlements for 90 days in order to revive peace talks with Palestine. In return, the U.S. will provide a $3 billion package with security incentives and fighter jets, oppose any U.N. measures critical of Israel and not ask for an extension on the freeze.
The settlement was reached in New York after seven and a half hours of talks between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The freeze would only apply to residences and not public structures such as schools or community centers. East Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as the future capital of a free Palestinian state, is also not included in the freeze.
The Palestinian Authority reported it had not been informed of the proposed U.S.-Israel deal. It seems unlikely such a deal will lead to peace since in the past Palestinians have stated they will not resume peace talks until construction in Jerusalem halts.
Since the previous 10-month moratorium on construction was lifted, construction work has begun on 1,649 new housing units. “It turns out that the settlement freeze was no more than a 10-month delay in the construction and the settlers managed to fill in the gap very fast,” the Israeli organization Peace Now contends. “The government of Israel must renew the freeze in a way that will stop all settlement activity, including the projects that started in the last few weeks, until there is a final agreement between the Palestinians and Israel regarding the borders and the future of the settlements.”
There are nearly 500,000 Jews in over 100,000 settlements in the West Bank, and are considered illegal under international law.
Israel has not agreed to the new deal yet. Several members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have voiced opposition to the measure, with Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon calling it a “honey trap.”
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