U.S. offers deal to Israel in bid to halt settlements
JERUSALEM – The U.S. has offered Israel an incentive package to reinstate a moratorium on West Bank settlement building in an effort to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, diplomatic sources said late Saturday.
The sources said the deal stipulates that Israel would stop settlement construction for 90 days in the West Bank. The moratorium would not apply to east Jerusalem. The U.S. will not ask Israel to extend the new moratorium when it expires.
U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed in September after a nearly two-year hiatus, but they quickly stalled over the issue of settlement expansion.
The Palestinians say they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – territory they claim as parts of their future state.
Israel insists the issue of settlements will become null and void once final borders are agreed upon.
The three-month freeze proposed by the U.S. includes new construction that began at the end of September after a 10-month moratorium set by Israel to entice Palestinians back to talks expired. Construction work on hundreds of homes has begun since then.
Diplomats said Saturday night that the incentive package includes U.S. commitments to fight international resolutions critical of Israel.
In addition, the diplomats said the U.S. administration will ask Congress to supply 20 F-35 fighter jets to Israel in a $3 billion deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other U.S. officials last week. Netanyahu convened a meeting of his inner Cabinet Saturday night to brief them on his meetings.
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