Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What will Netanyahu hold out for?

Ted Belman

Yesterday I speculated on what if anything Netanyahu was negotiating vis a vis the settlements. I suggested that any freeze have an expiry date.

Today Haaretz reports, Israel mulls temporary freeze on settlement construction

Israel is considering enacting a temporary freeze on settlement construction, excluding projects already underway, if the United States agrees to continued construction for natural growth once the freeze ends Thus Obama could claim he got his settlement freeze. The key is how many units in the projects underway, we will be permitted build and how long the freeze will be.

Barak believes that any progress on both the Palestinian and the regional peace tracks will render the settlement issue considerably less important, the government official said.

“If there’s progress on the peace talks, it will become clearer where the big settlement blocs are, and the gaps will become easier to bridge,” said a source close to Barak.

And if there is no progress? No way tthe Arabs will compromise.

Israel and the United States have already agreed that all unauthorized outposts are to be removed “within weeks or months,” no new settlements are to be built and no Palestinian land is to be confiscated.

However, they disagree over the duration of the settlement freeze and the future of settlement construction projects already underway.

Israel is offering to halt some settlement construction for up to six months, while the United States is interested in a considerably longer period.

In addition, Israel wants to convince Washington that building projects currently underway should be allowed to continue - including the construction of up to several thousand housing units.

Meanwhile our good friends in Europe and the US after pledging undying love for us, join the chorus in recommending that we must agree to the freeze.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi raised the settlement issue in a meeting with Netanyahu in Rome yesterday, telling him that settlement construction may become an obstacle for peace, and must be stopped.

I think the US tells its EU friends what is expected of them and they comply.

Why does everybody assume that but for settlement construction, peace is obtainable. There is no basis for it, unless they believe that Israel must agree to the Saudi Plan.

To my mind, the Obama has moved the goalposts here. The demand for a complete settlement freeze, even in the major blocks surrounding Jerusalem, follows naturally from his embrace of the Saudi Plan. Furthermore, Obama recognized that the Kadima government was unprepared to give to the Arabs more than 93% of Judea and Samaria. Obama’s policy is also to get a better offer from Israel.

If Netanyahu is prepared to go as far as Olmert went, it would still not be enough.

Does Netanyahu expect to cut a deal or does he expect no progress in reaching an agreement.

I’d like to know.n>

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