U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in the U.S. in January 2010. Photo by (GPO)
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed to the U.S. administration
On Thursday that he hold a face-to-face meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas every two weeks to try to forge covert understandings and set principles to solve every issue.

After the principles are determined, small negotiation teams would hammer out the details and put the understandings into writing. Netanyahu said in a meeting to prepare for the Washington summit that "serious negotiations in the Middle East mean only direct, quiet and consecutive talks between the two leaders on the key issues."

Netanyahu on Thursday evening began forming Israel's negotiating team for the direct peace negotiations set to commence next week, the Prime Minister's Office announced.

The Prime Minister will assemble a small negotiating team that will be under his direct supervision, in order to allow for thorough, serious and speedy talks.

Netanyahu was expected to meet with advisers Yitzhak Molcho, Ron Dermer, and Uzi Arad, among others, in order to pick who will be part of the delegation that will travel to Washington, where direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority are set to start on September 2.
Molcho will head the negotiating team, which is to include representatives from various government ministries.

Meanwhile, the Yesha Council of settlers is gearing up for the possibility that the 10-month freeze on settlement construction will remain in force past the September 26 deadline.

According to the council, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak plan to enforce a "quiet freeze." Under this scenario, the moratorium would be declared officially over, but Barak would not sign building permits brought to him for approval.

The settlers thus fear that in practice they will face enormous bureaucratic hurdles in their efforts to expand settlements.

One of the effects of this policy, the settlers argue, is that there will be hardly any new construction in the settlement blocs. Based on existing permits the only new housing units to be built are several dozen in Ariel, planned for the evacuees from Netzarim in Gaza, and another group in Ma'aleh Adumim.

Permits are also available for a handful of homes in Gush Etzion.

Yesha Council sources said on Thursday that the standard by which the "construction compromise" will be measured will be the number of housing units that will be built in the coming year.

"During Olmert's time, 3,000 housing units were built annually. As far as we're concerned, that's the number of units that need to be built in 2010," a source in the council said, referring to previous Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"During the first week at the end of the building freeze, Barak will have to sign approvals for 1,500 housing units that should have been built in recent months. If he signs approvals for anything less, it will be possible to deduce that the freeze is actually still in place."