WASHINGTON, (AFP) — The United States said Friday it was ready to provide “understandings in writing” after Israel requested written guarantees on incentives for a new freeze on West Bank settlements.
In talks last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put together a package of incentives to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a fresh 90-day moratorium on new settlement building in a bid to get stalled peace talks with the Palestinians back on track.
But Netanyahu has baulked at bringing the deal to his security cabinet until he receives the pledges in writing.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters that “if there’s a need to put certain understandings in writing, we will be prepared to do that.”
It was the first time State Department officials, who have kept mum about the details of the ongoing Israeli-US discussions, have said President Barack Obama’s administration is willing to put something in writing.
The US package of incentives is aimed at cajoling the Jewish state into imposing a new moratorium, opening the way for a return to the negotiating table.
Direct peace talks resumed on September 2 but collapsed three weeks later with the expiry of a 10-month Israeli ban on settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has since refused to rejoin the talks until a new moratorium is imposed.
David Hale, assistant to US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, briefed Abbas on details of the plan at a meeting earlier this week in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Ahead of the Abbas-Hale meeting, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said that for talks to resume, Israel would have to stop construction in all of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their promised state.
Crowley said Hale was still in region, where he is due to meet Friday and Saturday with his counterparts from Jordan and Egypt, which co-sponsored the launch of peace talks in Washington in September.