Netanyahu, aide hint settlement freeze unlikely

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a top aide hinted that a compromise with the Palestinians on a settlement freeze is not in the offing.

Netanyahu, along with top adviser Ron Dermer and Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, spoke Monday afternoon on a conference call with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

JTA reviewed the call with a number of participants.

Netanyahu did not directly address the moratorium during the call, but said he is sticking with the talks although he is not satisfied with Palestinian efforts and “I very much hope President Abbas will have the same attitude.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that for him to stay in the recently renewed peace talks, Netanyahu must extend the partial building freeze in the settlements that he imposed in December and which lapses Sept. 26.

President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have pressed Netanyahu to extend the freeze, but some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners have suggested they would bolt the government in the event of an extension.

The talks started without preconditions, Netanyahu said, “and we can’t reintroduce them five minutes after talks begin.”

Dermer specifically addressed the moratorium and said, “We might have to agree to disagree” with the Palestinians “for a few months.”

Netanyahu also said that the Palestinians must consider a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. Israel would not accept a formula whereby foreign troops kept the peace on the West Bank’s eastern front.

Oren and Dermer said relations with Turkey have not improved since a crisis erupted on May 31, when an Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged aid ship aiming to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of nine Turks, including a Turkish American.

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