US Near Deal to Restart Mideast Talks

West will get tough on Iran; Israel will freeze settlements
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2009 4:00 PM CDT
Housing units are seen in an outpost near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Itamar, near Nablus.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – In exchange for a tougher US and European line on a nuclear Iran, Israel is prepared to freeze the majority of settlement construction in Palestinian territory, paving the way for renewed Mideast peace talks, the Guardian reports. The groundwork—George Mitchell and Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to hammer out the details tomorrow—could allow President Obama to announce a resumption of talks before the end of next month. He hopes to make the announcement flanked by the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state and have a comprehensive deal in place within two years.

In return for a 9- to 12-month freeze on settlements, the US, France, and the UK would push the UN to widen sanctions on Iran if Tehran does not cooperate with demands about its nuclear program. “The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not,” an official says. The settlement freeze would allow Israel to normalize relations with Arab states, a key to negotiations with Palestinians. Some Arab states that also perceive Iran as a threat, including Saudi Arabia, are thought to be in behind-the-scenes talks with Israel.