JERUSALEM—The U.S. has given Israel a written guarantee that it won’t pressure the Jewish state for additional settlement freezes if it accepts a limited 90 day construction moratorium to revive Mideast peace talks, a top Israeli official said Saturday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked for the assurances in writing in part to appease some members of his Cabinet who oppose the deal.
Netanyahu returned from meetings with U.S. officials last week with an American incentive package designed to restart Israel-Palestinian peace talks that stalled in late September after Israel resumed settlement construction in the West Bank.
The U.S. has proposed that Israel cease settlement building for 90 days in return for a fleet of next-generation stealth fighter planes and U.S. pledges to veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.
The proposal does not include a freeze on building in east Jerusalem, where Palestinians envision their future capital.
“A commitment not to ask an additional freeze after 90 days was written by the Americans,” National Security Adviser Uzi Arad said Saturday afternoon in an interview with Israeli Channel 2 TV.
It was the first time the Israelis have said a written commitment was made. The U.S. has not confirmed that.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Friday night that the U.S. would be prepared “to put certain understandings in writing,” if needed. But the U.S.
issued no immediate comment on Saturday’s statements.
Israeli media reported that Netanyahu will convene a special meeting of ministers and parliamentarians of his Likud party Sunday to discuss the deal.
U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in late September, just weeks after they were launched, following the expiration of a 10-month Israeli slowdown on settlement construction.
“What is important—and the prime minister insists on this—that it be clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is the last freeze, there won’t be an additional request, there won’t be any American demands for freezes or other restrictions,” Arad said.
Arad also told the channel that the F-35 stealth fighter jets are not a gift and that Israel will be buying them. “Payment agreements need to be worked out,” he said.
The Palestinians say they cannot negotiate while Israel continues to build homes for Jews in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The U.S. offered Israel the incentives package in an attempt to end the impasse by bringing the Palestinians back to talks.
Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to try to and work out a deal on their future borders during the 90-day freeze period. Once borders are settled on, Israel could then resume building on any territories it expects to keep under a future peace deal.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas met with Arab League chief Amr Moussa in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the negotiations.
“We want the settlement construction to stop completely and it should not be allowed after a certain time,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters after the meeting.
He told The Associated Press in a phone call that he would only comment on the incentive package after the U.S. briefed him on the details. “The Americans have not informed us of anything officially yet, the second they do we will respond. They said they will contact us as soon as they have details”
Arad said he wasn’t certain a final peace agreement could be reached with Abbas, saying the Palestinian leader’s imposition of preconditions and opting out of talks so early “raises question marks.” But Arad said negotiations should continue and that the sides shouldn’t rule out an interim agreement.