Israel will lose nothing by agreeing to settlement freeze: US lawmaker

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Jerusalem, July 2 (ANI): Congressman Robert Wexler, a close political ally of US President Barack Obama and a big Israel supporter, has said that Israel would lose nothing, and potentially gain everything, by agreeing to a temporary moratorium on construction in the settlements for a short period of time.

Wexler on his third visit to Israel since December met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, a day after Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met in New York and decided that the discussion over settlement construction would continue.

"A request for a moratorium or freeze in settlement activity that can be mutually agreed upon by the US and Israel in the next several weeks is a tiny, tiny gesture and down payment to make when you look at potentially what is on the other side of the equation," The Jerusalem Post quoted Wexler, as saying.

On other side of the equation, he said, were 22 Arab countries being urged by the US to take significant steps now towards normalization with Israel.

"I want to call their bluff. I want to see, if Israel makes substantial movement toward a credible peace process, whether they are willing to do it. And if they are not, better that we should find out five or six months into the process, before Israel is actually asked to compromise any significant position," Wexter said.

Asked what would happen if Israel were to say no to the moratorium request, Wexler said, "I don't think Israel will say no. I don't see an equation where it is in Israel's interest to say no, so I believe Israel will say yes, under a certain set of qualifications that Israel will agree to."

Wexler complained that while the US demands on Israel were highlighted in the Israeli press, Washington's demands on the Arab world were not gaining similar attention.

According to Wexler, the Obama administration was making "equal, if not greater, demands on the Arab world in the context of starting the process and negotiations." (ANI)

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