The Netanyahu administration is floating a freeze in Israeli construction in the West Bank as a means of enticing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, according to a report Sunday in Maariv.
The government has reportedly agreed to a number of concessions in order to restart talks in Jordan, including a “quiet freeze” in West Bank construction, the release of 20 prisoners and a package of economic and security gestures.
The deal was reportedly mediated by the Jordanians, with King Abdullah bringing the proposal to Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas a few days before he signed the recent reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
The package offers several key concessions to the Palestinians, including limiting IDF presence in areas of the West Bank under Palestinian control and transferring more security responsibility to the PA in those areas.
The deal also would allow for the approval of PA building plans in areas controlled by Israel, as well as the import of enough building materials into the Gaza strip to build 1,000 housing units. Also included were provisions to allow increased trade between Gaza and the West Bank.
Netanyahu would approve the release of some 20-30 prisoners, far below the 100-plus initially demanded by the Palestinians.
The proposal does not contain a full freeze on building beyond the Green Line, but Israel would not approve new building plans in the settlements and would increase oversight of new construction that has already started.
In return for these gestures, the PA would refrain from further moves at the United Nations, where it has been seeking official recognition from various institutions. In addition, the PA would also cease its ongoing reconciliation efforts with Hamas and wait before calling elections in the West Bank.
The proposal is seen as an attempt to strengthen Abbas after he was subject to intense criticism for approving the recent around of peace negotiations, which began in Amman on January 3 but only lasted for a few meetings.