Netanyahu updates Cabinet on U.S. settlement freeze proposal


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu said he’d present to his Cabinet an expected U.S. offer of incentives to freeze Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.

After meeting last week in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for seven hours, the Israeli prime minister told his Cabinet in its weekly meeting Sunday that he’d bring any proposed deal on a freeze to Cabinet members.

"This proposal was raised during my talks with Secretary of State Clinton. It is still not final; it is still being formulated by Israeli and the American teams," Netanyahu told the Cabinet. "I insist that any proposal meet the State of Israel’s security needs, both in the immediate term and vis-à-vis the threats that we will face in the coming decade."

The Obama administration reportedly has offered, in exchange for another temporary settlement freeze, to supply 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets to Israel in a deal worth $3 billion; to veto all U.N. Security Council and international resolutions that criticize or delegitimize Israel; and to provide Israel with additional security guarantees once a peace deal with the Palestinians is reached. The U.S. deal requires Israel to halt all construction in the West Bank for 90 days, including on building work in process, and stipulates that the United States will not ask for an extension of the new freeze.

A 10-month Israeli freeze on construction in the West Bank ended on Sept. 26. President Obama has said he believes that he can help Israel and the Palestinians agree on final borders for Israel and a Palestinian state during another three-month settlement construction freeze.

At a meeting of Netanyahu’s Likud Party ministers before the Cabinet meeting, at least four ministers, including two vice premiers, reportedly expressed vehement opposition to another West Bank construction freeze.

Palestinians leaders reportedly also are against the deal because it does not include a freeze on construction in eastern Jerusalem. The United States reportedly has not consulted with the Palestinians on the deal it offered to Netanyahu.

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