As Israel waits for a letter clarifying America’s guarantees in exchange for a proposed building ban for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, a diplomatic source has come forward saying that no such letter is on its way. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton misled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and contrary to reports, the U.S. does not guarantee an end to the freeze, the source said.
The source, a senior diplomat with inside knowledge of Netanyahu’s recent meetings in Washington, said Clinton made commitments when talking to Netanyahu, but later slipped out of them by claiming that she had not been speaking on behalf of U.S. President Obama – who, she said in the end, did not give his approval.
When Netanyahu called the State Department to clarify America’s position, officials expressed surprise at his surprise, the source continued. While Clinton made promises, Netanyahu knew from the beginning that Obama has the final word, they allegedly said.
Clinton had told Netanyahu that the proposed construction freeze would last for three months, and that it would end regardless of whether or not there was progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. After that, she said, America would not push for a third building freeze.
However, according to the diplomat, U.S. leaders have since said that the building ban for Jews in Judea and Samaria would only end if Israel and the PA reached an agreement on the borders of a proposed PA state.
Several other American promises have been called into question as well. While it was initially reported that Israel would receive F-35 fighter jets in exchange for the freeze, Israeli ministers later clarified that the jets are part of a separate package, and that Israel will pay for them in full. It was also suggested that the construction ban would not apply to Jews living in Jerusalem; however, U.S. officials later stated that it would apply to all Jews living east of the 1949 armistice line, including those in Israel’s capital city.
If America does not openly declare that a second construction freeze would end in three months with or without a deal with the PA, Netanyahu is unlikely to get the cabinet’s support for the new construction ban. Ministers in Shas and within Netanyahu’s own Likud party have already stated that they would vote against the proposal without a U.S. promise.
Netanyahu previously made the unprecedented step of unconditionally freezing construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria for 10 months, in an attempt to bring the PA to the negotiating table. PA leaders reluctantly agreed to talk just as the 10-month freeze reached its conclusion, but left the talks again when the freeze ended.