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Impending military spite in Middle East?

December 8, 2010

U.S. Ends Push to Renew Israeli Freeze on Settlements

By MARK LANDLER
Published: December 7, 2010 NYTimes

WASHINGTON — After three weeks of fruitless haggling with the Israeli government, the Obama administration has given up its effort to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew an expired freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days, two senior officials said on Tuesday.

The decision leaves Middle East peace talks in limbo, with the Palestinians refusing to resume negotiations absent a settlement freeze and the United States struggling to find another formula to bring them back to negotiations. It is the latest setback in what has proved to be a tortuous engagement for President Obama.

Officials said the administration decided to pull the plug because it concluded that even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept an extension — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the administration originally had hoped for.

“There were different expectations on the terms of moratorium, the issues to be discussed during the moratorium, and what would happen after the moratorium expired,” said a person briefed on the decision.

The administration’s abrupt decision could also fray relations with Israel. The United States had offered Mr. Netanyahu a lucrative package of security and other incentives to agree to a 90-day extension. Mr. Netanyahu could face renewed pressure from the United States and the Palestinians as the hurdle to resumed talks.

Administration officials did not immediately offer a Plan B, even though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to sketch out new American proposals in a speech on Friday at the Brookings Institution.

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