Netanyahu presents U.S. incentives package to cabinet

08:29, November 15, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's seven-member inner cabinet on Saturday night discussed an American offer to Israel that included a package of benefits in return for freezing West Bank settlement construction for another three months.

The emergency session was called as soon as Netanyahu returned from his five-day visit to the U.S., where Netanyahu gave the keynote address at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, and met with Vice President Joe Biden, as well as a series of senior American officials and representatives.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the offer during a marathon seven-hour-long meeting with Netanyahu at the tail end of his visit.

Netanyahu presented the offer to his full cabinet on Sunday at the weekly session.

The U.S. would give Israel 20 F-35 jets, a three billion dollar deal that essentially doubles the package Israel had already garnered, as well as support against delegitimization efforts at the United Nations and other international arenas, a source close to the Israeli government told Xinhua on Sunday.

The U.S. and Israel would sign a comprehensive security deal if Israel and the Palestinians sign a peace agreement, according to the source.

Netanyahu, in comments about the American offer at what local media characterized as a "stormy" cabinet session Sunday morning, told ministers, "It is still not final; it is still being formulated by Israeli and the American teams."

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who opposes such a deal, told ministers at the outset of the session that, "What is at stake is not a three-month building freeze, but in fact the beginning of negotiations over the borders of a Palestinian state," according to the Ha'aretz daily.

Shalom also said that there should be no linkage between settlement activity and efforts to isolate Israel on the world stage, including the U.N. Security Council. "It is a strategic error to condition an American veto and diplomatic support from Washington upon the continuation of a building freeze."

"It is something that should go without saying, based on the special relationship between our countries," Shalom said, according to the report.

Netanyahu said that if and when an agreement is finalized, he would present it before the cabinet for approval.

"In any case, I insist that any proposal meet the State of Israel's security needs, both in the immediate term and vis-a-vis the threats that we will face in the coming decade," Netanyahu concluded, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

Early Sunday morning, however, when a representative of the Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research asked a U.S. State Department spokesperson to affirm or verify the incentives in the U.S. offer, Leslie Phillips said, according to the group, " the U.S. State Department has no knowledge of the aforementioned promises from the U.S. secretary of state to the Israeli prime minister."

While the moratorium would include any new construction at West Bank settlements since the Sept. 26th conclusion of the initial self-imposed 10-month freeze, largely Arab east Jerusalem would not be included in the package. As well, the Americans would not request any additional construction halts at the conclusion of the proposed 90-day period.

The Israeli non-governmental Peace Now group said in a release that settlers began building 1,649 apartments, and started sinking foundations for 1,126 of them, in 46 West Bank settlements after the moratorium ended.

"It turns out that the Settlement Freeze was no more than a 10 months delay in the construction, and the settlers managed to fill- in the gap very fast," said the statement.

Source: Xinhua


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