JERUSALEM – The Obama administration pledged to the Palestinian Authority it will secure an extension of a freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank and a de facto freeze in eastern Jerusalem, a top PA leader told WND.
Under intense U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November announced a 10-month halt to all Jewish construction in the West Bank in an attempt to jumpstart talks aimed at creating a PA-led state. Netanyahu had publicly claimed the settlement moratorium was temporary and that new construction would resume after the freeze expires in September.
The Obama administration is also demanding a total halt to all Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem as a precondition to jumpstart talks. Netanyahu has refused an official freeze, but almost no new Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem has been approved since last month.
A top PA leader told WND in a phone interview today that Obama administration officials told him they are confident Netanyahu will extend the construction freeze to the West Bank as well as the de facto freeze in eastern Jerusalem beyond the agreed-upon time limits.
Asked whether the PA received a guarantee for the continued Jewish construction freeze, the PA leader replied, “Not a guarantee, but we reached an understanding with the Americans.”
The top PA leader boasted that despite Netanyahu’s public refusal to freeze Jewish Jerusalem construction, there have been almost no new building projects in eastern Jerusalem for more than a month.
Indeed, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper two weeks ago reported staff members of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee have been instructed by Netanyahu’s office to halt their work. The order followed a public spat with the Obama administration after housing was approved for 1,600 new homes in an already-existing Jewish community during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel in March.
At the time, the White House slammed the construction approval as an “insult” and an impediment to peace.