Israel is willing to carry out trust-building moves in the West Bank in order to facilitate peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, Haaretz reports. In a phone call between Netanyahu and Clinton, the Israeli PM reportedly conveyed a detailed list of gestures Jerusalem was willing to perform in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians.
The Prime Minister's Office stated following the conversation between Netanyahu and Clinton that there was 'a real effort by Israel to aid the U.S. administration in renewing negotiations though trust-building measures with the Palestinian Authority'. The Jerusalem Post adds that special Geworge Mitchell is expected te come to Jerusalem on Sunday.
According to Haaretz the confidence building measures might include the release of Palestinian prisoners, the abolishment of some chepoints and maybe even the transfer of some territory to the authority of the PA. Apparently concrete steps haven't been spelled out yet. Netanyahu, however, is not going to revoke the plans to build another 1600 houses in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of Jerusalem, as Clinton had asked. According to a blog post by Jackson Diehl of the newspaper Washington Post, who apparently has been chosen to function as the Israel government's mouthpiece in this case, Netanyhu contends that juridically this is impossible and also politically unfeasable, since a majority of poltical parties in Israel backs the expansion of Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. The suggestion, however, is that what he can do is to slow the actual building down somewhat by a year or two.. What Netanyahu proposes in general, according to Diehl, is a tactic of 'don't ask, don't tell' as far as building in Jerusalem is concerned. A rather ridiculous sounding proposal, since NGO's like Nir Amim or Peace Now are following the building programs anyway and the press usually publishes what they find out. The question is whether the American government is going to buy this charade. My guess is: it probably will.
The 'Quartet of Middle East negotiators', consisting of the US, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, has demanded that Israel halt all settlement activity and denounced Israel's plan to build new housing in East Jerusalem. The Quartet's comments came at a news conference in Moscow on Friday, following a meeting by the group. Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, read a joint statement saying that the Quartet 'urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activities'. Also the statement condemned 'the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem'.