Netanyahu makes Clinton an offer


WASHINGTIN (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton actions he could take to "improve the atmosphere," the State Department said.

Netanyahu phoned Clinton in Moscow late Thursday in the latest attempt to smooth relations ruffled last week when Israel announced a major housing start in eastern Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden aimed at underscoring U.S.-Israel closeness.

The announcement led the Palestinian Authority to scuttle for now "proximity" talks conducted through U.S. officials.

Netanyahu and Clinton  discussed "the specific actions that might be taken to improve the atmosphere for progress toward peace," a State Department statement said. "We are going to review the prime minister’s response and continue our discussions with both sides to keep proximity talks moving forward."

It’s not clear what Netanyahu offered; Clinton reportedly had demanded a reversal of the decision to build. Citing Israeli sources, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Israel would offer a "don’t ask, don’t tell" deal whereby Netanyahu would quietly suspend the project.

The State Department also said that George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s top Middle East negotiator, would visit the region this weekend. Mitchell had postponed a planned visit this week, apparently because of the crisis.

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