Israel may freeze settlement activity to keep peace talks going, but only in West Bank
Israeli sources close to the ongoing peace talks told Reuters Monday that Tel Aviv may freeze settlement activity temporarily to "keep the talks alive" while Agence France Presse and Al Arabiya reported that Israel is pushing tenders for 700 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem.
The information on the tentative freeze comes from discussions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week. Palestinians, according to the source's information, would agree to extend the peace talks until 2015 if Israelis froze settlement activity.
However, the settlement freeze would only involve the West Bank: "The settlement freeze does not include East Jerusalem, private construction or building of public institutions."
“The ministry of housing is trying to forcefully undermine the peace process ... and (U.S. Secretary of State) John Kerry’s efforts to promote it,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, who confirmed that Israel's Knesset pushed for 700 tenders in East Jerusalem's Gilo Settlement this week.
The deal also allegedly includes the release of U.S. Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, along with hundreds of Palestinian held by Israel.
Palestinian leadership did not provide any comment on the emerging deal or the tender push.
Israel has not imposed a settlement freeze since 2009 during another attempt to initiate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The current round of talks has been on the verge of collapsing, most recently with Israel's failure to uphold its promise to release the fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners last Saturday as specified under the peace talk deal outlined last July.