U.S. Drops Israel Settlement Freeze Demand Israelis say they were offered diplomatic guarantees and new military hardware, but in the end the U.S. and Israel couldn't finalize a deal. The State Department official said the U.S. will no longer seek a moratorium as a way to revive direct peace talks.
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U.S. Drops Israel Settlement Freeze Demand

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U.S. Drops Israel Settlement Freeze Demand

U.S. Drops Israel Settlement Freeze Demand

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Now the administration says it will stop trying to get Israelis to agree to a moratorium on settlements. We start our coverage with NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Israelis say they were offered diplomatic guarantees and new military hardware, but in the end the U.S. and Israel couldn't finalize a deal. A State Department official now says that the U.S. will no longer seek a moratorium as a way to revive direct peace talks. Analyst Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations says the administration has lost time.

ROBERT DANIN: I don't see this as necessarily a retreat, but as a shift in tactics and maybe it's wise at this point, because they realize that the way in which they were going was not going to produce results. And the price that they were going to potentially pay to get a settlement moratorium was just far disproportionate to what it would have provided them.

KELEMEN: Danin says it's not optimal, but the U.S. for now will be back to what's called proximity talks.

DANIN: You don't have the parties talking to one another directly. You have them talking through the United States, and indeed you have the parties in essence negotiating bilaterally with the United States.

KELEMEN: Administration officials seem to think they can make progress on the borders of a future Palestinian state and deal with some of Israel's security concerns in such talks. One official said privately that the U.S. still thinks the two sides can reach a framework agreement on all the core issues next year. Woodrow Wilson Center Scholar Aaron David Miller says for now the administration doesn't have much to show for its effort.

AARON DAVID MILLER: The administration, after 20 months of focusing on a freeze, has no freeze, no negotiations, no process to launch serious negotiations, and right now no prospects for an agreement. So it's not a happy ending, at least at this stage.

KELEMEN: But that's not the end of the story, according to Miller, who was an adviser to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

DAVID MILLER: You know, I don't think they've given up. I think the president really will continue to be seized with this, both because he believes it's important and because others, just about everybody else, tells him repeatedly how important it is. The problem is that the options right now aren't great.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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