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U.S. quits effort on settlement freeze

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration reportedly has abandoned efforts to get Israel to freeze its West Bank settlements to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"After consulting with the parties, we have determined that a moratorium extension will not at this time provide the best basis for resuming negotiations," a number of media quoted a senior administration official as saying Tuesday.

The Palestinians left direct talks in late September, just weeks after they restarted, demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extend a partial settlement freeze past its 10-month deadline.

The Obama administration prepared an offer of security incentives to entice Netanyahu into extending the freeze, said to amount to $3 billion in addition to the $3 billion Israel already receives annually from the United States.

Netanyahu balked at the package and sought amendments, including U.S. approval of building in eastern Jerusalem.

It was unclear whether the U.S. offer, including 20 additional state-of-the-art fighter jets, is still on the table. The official suggested that a return to direct talks was not imminent.

"We hope obviously to get the parties to direct talks, but in the meantime we will continue our engagement with both sides," the official told Politico.

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