US Envoy George Mitchell has reportedly asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to a one year freeze on settlement construction as a “deposit” on the peace negotiations. Mitchell said the move would lead to concessions from Arab states toward Israel.
Sources however say that while the Israeli government did not reject the call out of hand, as it has so many other US requests in recent days, they had disagreements over the details and would accept a suspension of six months, at most.
Unclear is what would happen after the year is up. The Obama Administration has been seeking a permanent halt to all settlement expansion pending the creation of a Palestinian state, while Israel is hoping to win “understandings” from the administration similar to those it claims to have had with the Bush Administration.
The fact that the US is seeking only a one year freeze now, instead of a permanent cessation of expansion, is likely to be seen as a serious concession from the Obama Administration and a political victory for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, amid concerns that their hardline position would harm US ties.