The Obama administration asked Israel to impose an unofficial settlement freeze outside of major settlements blocs if a framework agreement is agreed upon, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
Israel has yet to officially respond to the request, according to the report, and the US is not yet pressing for an answer. But both Washington and Jerusalem understand that additional concessions will have to be made in order to ensure PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s support for continuing negotiations beyond the original nine-month window set to end in April.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the report.
An unofficial freeze would not require an official government order, giving Netanyahu some political cover, but it would mean that his administration would have to use bureaucratic obstacles to hold up the approval of new projects.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing a framework agreement as a means of keeping peace talks alive. However, his efforts appear to have foundered recently. Earlier this month, Channel 10 reported that Kerry sought but failed to receive backing from US President Barack Obama to confront Israel over its objections to his framework agreement. It was deemed that now was “not the time for such moves” for the president, the report said.
Peace talks resumed last July and are due to end in April unless Kerry can persuade the two sides to continue negotiations.
Israeli officials have indicated that Netanyahu is inclined to accept the framework terms, on the basis that they are non-binding and that he can express objections to them, though this has not been confirmed. Netanyahu is to meet with Obama in Washington on March 3.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.