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      Israel Envoy: Progress in Settlement Talks with US

      Israel and the U.S. are close to an agreement on settlement construction, revealed the Prime Minister’s envoy to negotiations Yitzhak Molcho.
      By Zalman Nelson
      First Publish: 8/23/2009, 10:27 AM / Last Update: 8/23/2009, 10:58 AM

      Israel News Photo: Flash 90

      Israel and the United States are close to reaching an agreement on the issue of Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and areas restored to Jerusalem in 1967, revealed the Prime Minister’s envoy to negotiations with the Obama administration Yitzhak Molcho at a Thursday night briefing.

      The possible compromise involves freezing construction in Jewish communities, allowing the completion of buildings whose construction has already begun, and Arab countries offering gestures of normalizing ties with Israel, said Molcho. The agreement would allow for the completion of approximately 2,500 housing units currently being built. The American side continues to push for a complete freeze on construction in settlement areas, as well as Jerusalem communities which Israel believes will remain under its sovereignty if and when a permanent agreement is reached with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

      The meeting of the six minister narrow forum was held at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv in preparation for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday. The group includes Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, MK Benny Begin, and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon.

      The forum is reportedly at odds over the matter.  Barak, Netanyahu and Meridor support a three to six month freeze in exchange for completing construction on already started housing units and normalization steps on the part of Arab countries and the PA.

      Lieberman, Begin and Ya'alon are pushing for an outright rejection of American demands for a construction freeze.

      Netanyahu is scheduled to leave Monday for a four-day visit to England and Germany where he’ll meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before talks with Mitchell on Wednesday.