United States officials are unfamiliar with the commitments America is allegedly offering Israel in exchange for a ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, says investigative journalist David Bedein. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told his ministers, and the Israeli public, that the U.S. has promised not to pressure Israel for any additional ban on construction in the future in exchange for a three-month building freeze now.
Bedein was in the U.S. last week and met with senior White House officials. He reports that he was surprised to hear them deny the promises reported by Netanyahu. The officials said they had heard of the alleged American commitments in the Israeli media but had not received confirmation from the Obama administration.
Bedein said he has filed an inquiry at the Prime Minister’s Office regarding what he heard but has not yet received a response.
Meanwhile, Former United States ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, wrote in the Washington Post that Israel should not sign the agreement with Obama, calling it a “bribe” that will change the United States-Israel relationship to one of a political nature.
National Security Advisor Uzi Arad said Saturday that U.S. leaders had put one commitment in writing. In an interview with Channel 2, he said American officials had promised in writing not to pressure Israel again if Israel agrees to a second moratorium on building.
Arad also confirmed reports that the U.S. had promised Israel F-35 stealth fighter jets in exchange for the freeze, but said that contrary to some rumors, the jets would not be given as a gift. Israel will pay for the planes, he said, adding that details of the sale are not yet final. Minister Uzi Landau said several days ago that the jets are conditional on reaching an agreement on borders within the 90 day freeze period.
In addition to a commitment not to pressure Israel for a third construction freeze, U.S. officials had allegedly agreed that any freeze on Jewish building east of the 1948 armistice line would not include Jerusalem, and had assured Israel that America would veto anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council.
An American official denied one of the alleged commitments on Thursday, telling Haaretz that a construction ban would include Jerusalem. “If the moratorium deal goes through, we will continue to press for quiet throughout east Jerusalem during the 90 days, regardless of what Bibi [Netanyahu] is telling Shas now,” the official said. Shas is reportedly insisting that Defense Minister Barak commit himself to signing new building permits in Judea and Samaria after the freeze, which is the way new construction was prevented by him when the first freeze was over..
The U.S. is pushing for a three-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria in order to appease Palestinian Authority leaders who dropped out of negotiations with Israel when a previous construction ban ended. The PA is demanding a total building freeze east of the armistice line, including in Jerusalem.
Previously Jews living east of the armistice line had continued their lives as usual during negotiations with the PA, with the understanding that many of the Jewish communities in those areas will remain under Israeli control under a peace deal, making construction irrelevant to the talks. Jews in Judea and Samaria are allowed to build only within the bounds of existing Israeli communities, such that construction does not have an effect on the quantity of land available to the PA.