the British Guardian reported that President Barack Obama is close to breaking the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians by getting Israel to agree to a partial settlement freeze in exchange for a tougher U.S. stand against Iran’s nuclear program.
The report, which cites U.S., European, Israeli and Palestinian officials, said that Obama will be ready to announce the resumption of long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of September.
“The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not,” the Guardian quoted one official close to the negotiations as saying.
In exchange for Israel agreeing to a partial and temporary settlement freeze, the U.S., Britain and France would push the United Nations Security Council to expand sanctions on Iran to include its oil and gas industry, the report said.
Israel is also seeking normalization with Arab states, which would include the right for El Al to fly within Arab states’ airspace, the establishment of trade offices and embassies and an end to the ban on travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports.
A poll released Wednesday in Israel showed freezing settlements would be an unpopular move. Almost two-thirds of those questioned told pollsters they opposed a freeze, even in return for moves by Arab countries toward
normalization of ties with Israel. Thirty-nine percent said they would support a freeze in return for Arab gestures.