“For a year we are seeing a phenomenon of refusal from Abu Mazen [Abbas] to go to direct talks. We see him grasping onto different pretexts in order not to go, even though no pre-conditions are being asked of him, and he is not willing to come [to the talks] under the same terms he was willing to when Olmert was the prime minister. This raises question marks,”Regarding the status of the commitments the US would give to Israel in return for another three-month settlement freeze, Arad said that the two sides were currently trying to translate agreements reached at the meeting in New York 10 days ago between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into “concrete and operational” language.
The question then will be whether these commitments meet Israel’s national interests, and if Netanyahu believes that they do, he will only then bring the package to the security cabinet for a vote, Arad said.
Arad did say “a commitment not to ask for an additional freeze after 90 days was written by the Americans,” the first time an official has said that such a written commitment was made.
Arad said that it was natural that the translation of the agreements reached between Clinton and Netanyahu into “operational details” takes time.
Arad said there were three different planes to the Clinton- Netanyahu understandings. The first had to do with a second squadron of F-35 fighters to be provided to Israel, with an agreement on the sale of a first squadron already agreed upon over the summer.
The second plane had to do with the freeze itself, with Netanyahu making it clear that this would be the last moratorium, and that the US would have to commit to not asking for an additional freeze, Arad said.
And the third plane was in the diplomatic realm, with the US committing itself to using its full weight at the UN, including a Security Council veto if necessary, to keep the Palestinians from getting UN recognition of statehood without negotiations.
Arad said it was clear all this was being done “in writing.” Arad said it was also clear that there would be no final accord without the Palestinians recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, although this was not a pre-condition to entering into talks, rather a condition for any eventual accord.