Report: PM demands US back building in settlement blocs in exchange for gestures in West Bank

Israeli official says Netanyahu made request two weeks ago in Washington, will bring up issue again Tuesday in meeting with Kerry

Benjamin Netanyahu (right), and Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meet at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, on October 22, 2015. (AFP/Carlo Allegri/Pool)
Benjamin Netanyahu (right), and Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meet at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, on October 22, 2015. (AFP/Carlo Allegri/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly demanded that Washington accept Israeli construction in the large settlement blocs in exchange for a series of Israeli measures in the West Bank to alleviate recent tensions with the Palestinians.

According to a report in Haaretz on Tuesday, which quotes a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu first made the demand to US Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago when they met in Washington, and will bring the issue up again on Tuesday when the two meet as part of Kerry’s Mideast tour.

“The Americans want Israel to implement a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank,” the senior Israeli official is quoted by Haaretz as saying. “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”

According to the report, Netanyahu told Kerry that such recognition will ease his path in the security cabinet to make significant gestures to the Palestinians, which reportedly include advancing Palestinian infrastructure projects and economic benefits.

The Americans were not clear on what steps Netanyahu was proposing, according to Haaretz, and in recent meetings between US envoy to the peace process Frank Lowenstein and Netanyahu’s adviser Isaac Molho, things were not made clearer

Kerry is set to meet separately with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in a bid to ease tensions amid a wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis that has raged for almost two months.

Near-daily clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters in mid-September surrounding tensions on the Temple Mount quickly escalated to stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks by October, in which mainly Palestinian assailants have targeted civilians, IDF soldiers and Border Police troops in Israel and across the West Bank. Since October 1, 19 Israelis, a US citizen, an Eritrean national and a Palestinian bystander have been killed in such attacks. On the Palestinian side, officials say over 80 have been killed. At least half of them have been attackers.

The US is not planning to restart peace talks or broker any agreement, officials have indicated. The State Department has said it is looking “for the both sides to take concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.”

On Monday, during a visit to Abu Dhabi, where he started his Mideast tour, Kerry said there was no justification for Palestinian terrorism.

“It happens almost every day over there and it’s terrible, and too many Israelis have been killed and stabbed, and too many Palestinians,” Kerry said in Abu Dhabi where he started the first leg of his Mideast tour. “And there’s no excuse for any of the violence. There’s just no rationale. Even if you’re unhappy and you’re disappointed in the lack of whatever the political horizon is, whatever, violence is not the solution.”

He told reporters that Washington was “perfectly prepared to work and [has] ideas for how things could proceed” to quell the wave of violence, but, warned that “People aren’t in the mood for concessions.”

Kerry also called the parents of terror victim Ezra Schwartz, 18, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank last week, to express his condolences.

With Abbas, Kerry is set to discuss controlling incitement over the Temple Mount and preventing the PA from collapsing, a US official said.

Abbas reiterated his claims on Monday that Israel was changing the status on the Temple Mount, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray — a charge that Israel has repeatedly and vociferously denied.

In a statement to the UN to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the PA president placed the blame for the recent wave of violence on Israel, charging that its forces were carrying out “extrajudicial killings” of those Palestinians perpetrating terror attacks against Israelis.

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