JERUSALEM — A week after the United States offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a new round of guarantees and incentives in return for a 90-day ban on settlement construction in the West Bank, details have yet to emerge.
There is still no written draft of the proposal — something the Israeli parliament said it was waiting for from Washington before it moved ahead with a vote.
However, the essence of the deal appears to be a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, which the United States hopes will lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, in exchange for 20 new fighter jets for Israel and guarantees that the United States won’t support moves by the Palestinians to press the United Nations to recognize it as a sovereign nation.
The latter is thought to target Palestinians' ambitions to address the United Nations directly in regards to borders of a future state. Israeli analysts said they expect a razor-thin vote on deal when it finally happens.
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz quoted an Israeli official close to the negotiations saying that the Palestinians voiced opposition to the plan as it would benefit Israel too much.
In a recent interview with GlobalPost, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made his position on the settlements clear.
“Israel is insisting on continuing to more deeply entrench the occupation instead of ending it. We have to produce positive facts on the ground to counter the negative facts on the ground created by the settlers and the occupation,” he said.
“We need a state. So we need strong institutions and mature governance," said Fayyad. "This is not about claiming that our life is miserable. It is miserable. But this is more about looking forward. What do we have to do to overcome these difficulties? We want the state. Let’s build one.”
Nabi Abu Rudineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, told Israeli Army Radio that the Palestinians have not yet officially received any information regarding the proposed deal. He went on to add that President Mahmoud Abbas would not officially comment on the proceedings before he was fully informed by the United States about the proposition.
In the meantime, Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that the Palestinians would go back to direct negotiations only if Netanyahu stops all construction.
The new proposal, however, calls for a halt in building in the West Bank alone and not in East Jerusalem. In the latter, in fact, Israel is building 1,300 new housing units.
An official of the Arab League further explained to Maan, the Palestinian News agency that “if the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem, I cannot imagine that it would be acceptable to the Palestinian side.”
The last construction freeze lasted 10 months and expired in September, after which the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians stalled.
Peace Now, a non-governmental organization, claims that since the expiration of the freeze, the foundations for 1,126 homes in the West Bank have been laid. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967. The settlements remain a crucial issue on the road to peace and a two-state-solution.