Israeli officials reiterated today that under no circumstances would the prospective 90 day settlement freeze include occupied East Jerusalem. Officials also claimed that the US was fine with this arrangement, and had also agreed to never again ask for a freeze after this one.
They have said this in the past, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming that East Jerusalem, though occupied in 1967 and not recognized as part of Israel, is part of their “eternal and undivided capital” and that government projects to oust Arabs from the region and build “Jewish only” neighborhoods don’t count as settlements.
US officials did not directly address the claims, but did insist that no final deal had been reached with Israel on the new freeze. Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to confirm this, saying that such a deal was not necessarily imminent.
Securing enough political backing (or at least acquiescence) for the freeze has been difficult for Netanyahu, and he is expected to pledge massive settlement expansions in East Jerusalem in return for Shas not voting down the freeze.
The problem with this, of course, is that Israel is not, despite appearances, negotiating a peace deal with the US, but with the Palestinian Authority. The 90 day freeze is meant to coax the PA back to peace talks, but if it comes with major expansions in settlements in East Jerusalem it is unlikely to be welcomed as such, and even if the talks resume it seems 90 days is far too short to reach a deal.