Now that Netanyahu has finally called…

Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz, rather quickly after the announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin’s almost-overdue phone call to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (she was in Moscow attending a meeting of the Quartet), on what Israel will do now to help mend its most important external relationship.
Both the White House and the U.S. State Department pointedly announced, publicly, on Thursday that they were waiting for Netanyahu’s call:
“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. 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’.” This Barak Ravid report can be read in full on the Haaretz website here.

UPDATE: A clarification was issued later saying that Netanyahu has now indicated that his willingness to take “confidence-building measures” does not extend to “Jerusalem”.

The Barak Ravid story in Haaretz continued: “These [confidence-building] measure likely include the release of Palestinian prisoners, the removal of West Bank checkpoints and perhaps even a willingness to transfer West Bank territories to PA control. While the PMO did not mention Israel’s response to a U.S. demand to halt the contentions East Jerusalem construction project announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s Israel visit, a possible answer to that question may be found in a Washington Post report released earlier Thursday. According to a blog entry by senior Post reporter Jackson Diehl, one informed by a conversation with Israel’s envoy to the U.S. Michael Oren, Jerusalem had reportedly agreed to postpone the execution of the contentious Ramat Shlomo construction plan, while not canceling it altogether. Netanyahu is expected, according to the Washington Post report, to tell the Obama administration that he cannot revoke the Ramat Shlomo expansion plan both for legal reasons and as a result of wide public support in continued building in Jerusalem. However, according to Diehl’s blog entry, Netanyahu will offer ‘assurances that the new neighborhood will not be constructed anytime soon; it is, in fact, two or three years from groundbreaking … Coupled to that would be an Israeli pledge to avoid publicizing further construction decisions in Jerusalem. The result would not be a freeze, but something like a “don’t ask, don’t tell‘ policy for settlements’, Diehl added. The blog entry also claimed that Jerusalem had also made significant headway in formulating how Israel’s envisions the proximity talks as taking place. ‘The goal of both sides’, ambassador Oren was quoted as saying, ‘at this point is to put this behind us, and go forward with the proximity talks as quickly as possible’. Tensions between Israel and the Obama administration had been reduced, Oren told Diehl, with the Washington Post journalist adding that it ‘has become clear that Netanyahu’s government was taking Clinton’s message seriously – it has spent days formulating its response in marathon cabinet meetings”. This Barak Ravid report can be read in full on the Haaretz website here.

The official U.S. statement, issued by State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) said that “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called Secretary Clinton to follow up on their conversation last Friday. They discussed the specific actions that might be taken to improve the atmosphere for progress toward peace. We are going to review the Prime Minister’s response and continue our discussions with both sides to keep proximity talks moving forward. Senator Mitchell will visit the region later this weekend to meet with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu”.

UPDATE: Apparently, Netanyahu has now clarified that his willingness to take “confidence-building measures” does not extend to “Jerusalem”.

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