Is the Settlement-Freeze Deal Bead?
Ephron, Dan, Newsweek
Byline: Dan Ephron
Israel's provocative foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, likes assuring people that his public remarks are no different from the things other Israeli leaders say privately. Was that the case last week? In interviews, including one with NEWSWEEK, Lieberman said efforts to reach an agreement with Washington to extend Israel's settlement freeze had hit a wall. "It's clear to most people there will be no more freezes," he told Israel Radio. Publicly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists talks about the deal--which would have Israel halt construction in the West Bank for 90 days while negotiations with the Palestinians are renewed in exchange for fighter planes and other goodies from the U.S.--are still ongoing. But two Israeli sources familiar with the details say Lieberman has it right: the chances of an agreement with the Obama administration are now slim.
The sources, who didn't want to be identified revealing details of internal discussions, say the talks are stuck over two guarantees Israel wants included in a document the two sides are formulating. One is a U.S. commitment to seek no additional extension of the freeze, even if negotiations fail to produce an agreement on the future borders of a Palestinian state--a goal the Obama administration has set for the 90-day period. …