US, Israel may both claim victory on emerging settlement deal

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Jerusalem/Washington, July 9 (ANI): Israel and the US are moving toward a compromise solution on the settlement issue that might allow both sides to claim "victory," The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to senior government officials, under this type of solution, Israel would declare a moratorium of a few months on the settlement issue, possibly half a year, while the US would give Israel a green light to complete a still-to-be-determined number of housing units in the settlements that are in advanced stages of construction.

Under this type of arrangement, US President Barack Obama would be able to claim a victory in getting Israel to agree to a moratorium on any new housing starts in the settlements, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could claim that he did not agree to a complete freeze, and that housing construction would continue.

In addition, US Mid East envoy George Mitchell would continue efforts to extract normalization gestures from at least some countries in the Arab world.

Israeli officials said that Obama was continuing pushing hard on the settlement issue because of a feeling he needed some breakthrough here to be able to go to the Arab world and build coalitions to help the US deal with mounting problems in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

Once agreement is reached on the settlement issue, and the US gets some gestures from the Arab world, the next step would possibly be an event - likely an international conference - where a "to do" list would be presented regarding what needed to be done to move the diplomatic process forward.

This "to do" list, according to one well-placed source, was shaping up as a revamped edition of the road map, with sequential phases and a stronger regional component, meaning that the Arab states would be asked to become involved in the normalization of ties in the early stages, rather than at the end, of the process.

In addition, any new road map would have take into consideration - and deal with in detail - something that did not exist when the original road map was launched in 2003: Hamas control of the Gaza Strip.

Diplomatic sources said that the US, interested in shoring up its relations with Russia, is now much more amenable than in the past to the idea of an international conference in Moscow to launch the new initiative. (ANI)

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