November 17, 2010 / 5:21 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. mum on Israeli bid for written security pledges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment Wednesday on whether Washington would accede to an Israeli request to provide new security guarantees in writing to help jump-start the stalled Middle East peace process.

Clinton, asked if she would put the new ideas in writing as Israeli officials have requested, said she could not reveal the contents of their discussion.

“I can’t get into details ... I can only repeat what I’ve said — that we are in close touch with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re working intensively to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace,” she said.

Israel signaled Tuesday it had delayed approving U.S. proposals for a freeze on West Bank settlement building so that peace talks can resume, saying it wanted the ideas in writing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been expected to put Washington’s proposals to a cabinet vote this week but the plan was delayed after pro-settler coalition partners protested against a proposed 90-day construction freeze.

The Israeli security cabinet convenes a weekly meeting on Wednesday and the settlement freeze was not on the agenda for the current session, Israeli political sources said.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu now wanted “written guarantees” from Washington before a vote could be held.

Israeli sources said the proposals, made verbally during a meeting between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York last week, included an offer of 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion for Israel and pledges of enhanced U.S. diplomatic support at the United Nations.

U.S. officials have not confirmed details of the package, which appears designed to enable Netanyahu to persuade reluctant members of his coalition to support a resumed moratorium on new Jewish settlement construction in occupied areas of the West Bank.

U.S.-brokered direct talks between the two sides ground to a halt after Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month partial construction freeze in September, causing the Palestinians to suspend their participation in the negotiations.

Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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