U.S. Incentives May Prompt Israel to Renew Settlement Freeze, Envoy Says

Incentives offered by the Obama administration to Israel may allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push through his Cabinet a limited renewal of the freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said.

“The U.S. has come back to Israel with a number of suggestions, incentives if you would, that enable the government to maybe pass a limited extension of two or three months,” Ambassador Michael Oren told the Washington Post.

Netanyahu has told his Cabinet that he is trying to keep the negotiations, which began in Washington Sept. 2, from falling apart over Palestinian demands for a renewal of the 10- month construction moratorium that ended Sept. 26.

The Israeli leader faces opposition to any renewal of the freeze in his Cabinet, in which most ministers support settlement building.

Netanyahu this week said that he was “engaged in sensitive diplomatic contacts with the Americans to find a solution” that would allow talks to continue after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he wouldn’t negotiate unless construction halted.

Abbas goes to the Arab League tomorrow to seek support for his position.

Oren said the Americans are also in discussion with the Palestinians “trying to keep them at the table,” and talking to the Arab League so it will "give the Palestinian leadership another green light to continue at the table.’’

“All of this is converging in the next 48 hours and by Friday we will have a clearer picture,” Oren told the Post in an interview yesterday. He didn’t elaborate on what the U.S. incentives might be.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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