JERUSALEM: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is working on a year-long plan to revive peace talks with the Palestinians, which would involve a three-month freeze on settlement building, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Under the terms of the plan, which were outlined in the Maariv newspaper, the Israeli premier is planning to follow the three-month moratorium with nine months of restricted building which would limit construction to meet the natural growth needs of the settlements.
Israel and the Palestinians began direct peace negotiations in September but within weeks the talks ran aground after the expiry of a 10-month moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu has steadfastly refused to reimpose the ban; while Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has refused to talk while Israel continues to build on land he wants for a future state, prompting intense US efforts to resolve the deadlock.
Part of the reason for Netanyahu’s reluctance to reimpose the ban is because he lacks support for such a move within his right-wing coalition, but Maariv said the premier had been working behind the scenes to build support for his new initiative.
He has also been preparing a contingency plan which would see him expanding the coalition and bringing in the opposition centrist Kadima party to replace the ultra-nationalists of Yisrael Beitenu, who are the vehemently opposed to any further ban, paper said.
Netanyahu is hoping to present the plan to US President Barack Obama next month, following the mid-term elections of November 2.
Details of the plan would only be made public after the state budget is passed within the coming weeks, with the aim of making a fresh stab at negotiations with the Palestinians in January, the paper said.
Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on the article.