Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:34 pm (KSA) 09:34 am (GMT)

Israel PM meets inner forum before Arab summit

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday will convene ministers in his inner circle reportedly to debate extending the settlement freeze just days ahead of a key meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

"There will be a meeting of the seven," a senior government official told AFP, referring to the Israeli premier's Forum of Seven top ministers.

He refused to say what the ministers would discuss during the meeting, which is expected to take place during the afternoon.

Israeli media reports said the meeting was likely to focus on the issue of a 60-day extension of the settlement freeze in exchange for a U.S. deal offering security and other guarantees, details of which were leaked by a top U.S. analyst last week.

Israel's army radio said Netanyahu was to discuss the reported U.S. proposal in a bid to win over hardline opponents within his inner circle.

"Netanyahu is looking for a way out," the radio's political commentator said.

"On one hand, he is against a renewal of the freeze because he doesn't want to give in to Palestinian demands, but on the other hand, he also wants to avoid a direct confrontation with the U.S. administration."

Possible compromise

Following Tuesday's talks, Netanyahu was on Wednesday to convene his 15-member security cabinet, the official said, again refusing to give details of what they would discuss.

Netanyahu was likely to use both forums to try to achieve some kind of compromise over the settlements ahead of a key Arab summit in Libya later this week at which the Palestinians were expected to formalize a decision to bolt the peace talks.

"Netanyahu will try to persuade the ministers to accept the guarantees the American administration has offered Israel in exchange for extending the construction freeze," the Haaretz newspaper said.

"The prime minister is interested in passing a decision on the matter before an Arab League committee meets in Libya on Friday to deliver its verdict on whether peace negotiations should continue."

Peace talks with the Palestinians, which began just a month ago, face imminent collapse over Israel's refusal to renew a freeze which expired on Sept. 26.

Renewing the ban on building new settler homes in the occupied West Bank appears to be key to salvaging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, who say they will walk out if construction continues.

The Palestinian leadership has urged Mahmoud Abbas to turn his back on the negotiations if Israel does not renew the freeze, and the Palestinian president will look for backing from Arab foreign ministers for such a move when he meets them in Libya on Friday.

Netanyahu's consultations with his closest minister appears geared towards finding some kind of compromise ahead of the Libyan summit, the Haaretz newspaper said.

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »