Settlement freeze would mean $3 billion to Israel |

Settlement freeze would mean $3 billion to Israel

JERUSALEM — Israeli defense officials urged the government yesterday to accept a new U.S.-drafted deal to freeze Jewish settlement building temporarily in exchange for a $3 billion military package, including a U.S. gift of 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets.

But leading ministers in the Israeli cabinet poured cold water on the proposal, and if it passes Sunday, it will be with a razor-thin majority.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have praised the Israeli government for accepting the compromise, though Israel has yet to issue an official response to the deal.

“This is a very promising development and a serious effort by Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu,” Clinton said yesterday. “We are going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the parties to begin the kind of serious, end-game negotiations that are necessary.”

The deal requires the United States to support Israel’s position at the United Nations, and, according to Israeli news reports, to block recognition of any unilateral Palestinian move to declare independence.

In exchange, Israel would halt construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days, excluding East Jerusalem, enabling it to continue to build in a place that Palestinians hope will be the capital of a new Palestinian state.

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