Rabin hedges bets on settlements freeze

THE Israeli government announced a temporary freeze on all building in the occupied territories yesterday, but left unclear how far settlement on the lands seized by Israel after the Six-Day war would be permanently halted.

The freeze - imposed while the government assesses all its building needs - drew the wrath of Jewish settlers, who described it as 'a declaration of war'.

The announcement was clearly designed to persuade James Baker, the US Secretary of State, to start handing over to Israel the dollars 10bn in loan guarantees when he visits Jerusalem on Sunday. The loan guarantees were held back because of the previous Israeli government's settlement drive, which pushed the Jewish population in the occupied territories to about 100,000.

Until the victory of the Labour government three weeks ago, Washington's stated position on settlements was to demand a total and permanent freeze.

According to diplomatic sources, since the victory of the new Labour government, which is more positive about peace, the US will no longer insist on a blanket halt to building. Mr Baker will come to Jerusalem prepared to 'negotiate' with Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, about how much building should stop and where.

Palestinian leaders are certain to accuse the US of betrayal if it gives an inch on the demand for a total ban, and they may threaten not to enter a new round of peace talks. However, it is understood that the US has already decided not to insist on a halt to building in the Jordan Valley or in east Jerusalem, and may be ready to allow some building to continue in other areas, deemed by Mr Rabin to be necessary for security reasons.

The negotiation between Mr Rabin and Mr Baker about what should be halted will centre on Mr Rabin's distinction between 'political' settlements, which he is prepared to halt, and those necessary for security reasons, which he says must be 'enhanced'. His explanations of the 'political' and 'security' distinction have been vague and contradictory.

According to a report in yesterday's Jerusalem Report magazine, Mr Rabin's definitions would allow an end to building in about 100 of the 140-odd settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Western diplomats are bracing themselves for a much less generous offer. In what diplomatic sources describe as their 'worst-case scenario' Mr Rabin will offer to halt building permanently in fewer than half the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Labour leader has spoken of the need to continue building along the 'confrontation lines' and in 'greater Jerusalem'. But he has not described what he means by either.

It is clear he includes the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights as 'confrontation lines'. But Mr Rabin has been unclear about whether he also includes the old Green Line between the West Bank and Israel. If he does include the Green Line several large settlements which run near it will be spared the freeze - along with the 25 settlements in the Jordan Valley and the handful in the Golan Heights.

The worst case also assumes that Mr Rabin is taking a very broad interpretation of 'greater Jerusalem'. Experts believe that Mr Rabin may believe that it now extends several kilometres beyond the municipal boundary.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game