Israel still at loggerheads with US over settlements issue, seeks "exit strategy" if talks fail

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Jerusalem, Aug. 4 (ANI): Even though last week's meetings between top US and Israeli officials was a significant step in strengthening the relationship between the two countries, Israel has clearly told Washington that zero construction in the settlements can not be sustained for long.

Part of the problem is that Israel cannot agree to a settlement freeze without having "an exit strategy" for renewing construction if the diplomatic process runs aground, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Another question is what the country's settlement policy would be after any temporary moratorium ended, the paper notes.

Israel argued that while it was trying to be helpful in getting the diplomatic process restarted - and in fact no new housing tenders in the settlements have been issued since Binyamin Netanyahu assumed office - there are basic needs in the settlements that have to be met.

Jerusalem is of the view that a compromise formula could be reached with Washington, but there might not be a "magic bullet" that could resolve the problem.

Nonetheless, Israel is still optimistic that a political process with the Palestinians could begin even within the context of some remaining disagreement with the US over the settlement issue.

According to the paper, part of the dilemma in moving forward the peace route is how to reach an understanding on the settlements that is sustainable in Israel, and which at the same time would enable President Barack Obama to maintain credibility in the Arab world, given his previous call for a total freeze.

Israeli officials have indicated that the government's flexibility on the settlement issue could be greater in the context of the Arab states moving toward normalization gestures toward Israel.

These officials said that while Israel appreciated the Bahraini crown prince's recent op-ed in The Washington Post calling for the Arab world to open up a dialogue with the Israeli public, the Saudis really held the key to normalization and they could potentially be the "game changer." (ANI)

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