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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Netanyahu agrees to concessions

In bid to end crisis, Netanyahu and Clinton agree to include core issues in proximity talks with Palestinians; in addition, prime minister to approve prisoner release, Israel to ease Gaza Strip blockade

Roni Sofer

  03.21.10, Ynetnews,7340,L-3865510,00.html

Core issues up for discussion, east Jerusalem construction slowdown, Gaza siege to be eased – this is the price to be paid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the major crisis vis-à-vis the US.


The above understandings allayed tensions between Jerusalem and Washington ahead of the PM's upcoming trip to the US. Now, officials at the Prime Minister's Office are hoping for a meeting between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.


Diplomatic Crisis
Netanyahu-Clinton meeting in works / Roni Sofer
Officials in Jerusalem working to schedule meetings between PM, senior US officials
Full Story
Israel wanted its proximity talks with the Palestinians to only deal with procedures ahead of direct negotiations, while the Palestinians wanted to discuss the core issues – it now appears that the Israel-US crisis tilted the balance in favor of the Palestinians. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to head to Washington, comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend indicated that the core issues will indeed be up for negotiations in the upcoming proximity talks.


The US Administration recently pressed Israel to start discussing the question of borders as the first core issue. The argument put forth by the US was that the moment borders are agreed upon, there would be no construction freeze problem and each side would be able to build in its own territory.


Meanwhile, US Special Envoy George Mitchell will be arriving in Jerusalem Sunday and meet Netanyahu. The prime minister will inform Mitchell, and possibly the Israeli public as well, of the series of gestures he agreed to in order to facilitate the proximity talks with the Palestinians.


The gestures will apparently include much stricter supervision by the PM himself over east Jerusalem construction. According to senior government ministers, this would mean a slowdown in Jewish construction - both government-funded and private - beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.


The gestures will also include several steps meant to boost Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, such as a prisoner release.


Over the weekend, the prime minister worked on drafting his speech at the AIPAC Conference next week. Netanyahu's aides said that the speech will be "powerful and significant" and will likely deal with Israel-US ties in an effort to allay the recent tensions as result of Israel's construction announcement in east Jerusalem during President Joe Biden's visit.