Israelis Unsure of PM's Stance on Bldg. Freeze

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday's cabinet meeting that once they have the Obama administration's proposal in writing, they'll be pleased to approve a 90-day extension of the building freeze in Judea and Samaria - the West Bank.

Netanyahu has said he would not present the extension for a vote until Israel has the proposal in writing.

The document, which is yet to materialize, is supposed to detail an agreement hammered out in a seven-hour marathon meeting nearly two weeks ago in New York between delegations led by Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

According to Netanyahu, the U.S. offered Israel certain incentives and guarantees in exchange for agreeing to a three-month extension of the 10-month freeze, which expired at the end of September. 

But so far, the letter hasn't shown up and little more than media posturing has taken place.

Some analysts believe the Obama administration will not commit itself in writing to any of the incentives, especially the promise not to ask for additional freeze extensions.

There has been a fair amount of opposition to the proposal among cabinet ministers, which Netanyahu has reportedly been trying to counter in closed-door meetings.

One sticking point is construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods. The two cabinet ministers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party - Interior Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai  and Housing Minister Ariel Attias - reportedly demanded written guarantees excluding Jerusalem from the ban.
       
Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel retains the right to build anywhere in its capital, but an unnamed U.S. official said last week that Jerusalem has always been included in the construction ban.

Other analysts say any written statement by the U.S. will be so vaguely worded that it will not be worth the paper it's written on.

In any case, the Palestinian Authority rejected the proposal when it was first announced so its presentation in written format is relatively unimportant to the PA.

At a weekend meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said again he would not resume negotiations without a total cessation of building in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

Abbas is referring to any areas outside the 1949 armistice lines, which include several established Jewish neighborhoods that have been part of Israel's capital for decades.

Meanwhile the Israeli Knesset is poised to pass legislation that would require a two-thirds majority of the 120-seat parliament to cede any area that has been annexed to the State, such as the Golan Heights or Jerusalem neighborhoods. The legislation calls for a national referendum in the event that a two-thirds majority vote isn't achieved.

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Tzippe Barrow

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.