Senior Ministers Meet, but Freeze Doesn't Come Up

Jordan's Abdullah tells Herzog: Don't miss opportunity.

The forum of seven senior cabinet members convened yesterday for more than three hours, but sources say they did not discuss a possible two-month settlement freeze. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the meeting did not address "efforts to enable the continuation of the peace talks," hinting that a possible refreeze of settlement construction was not brought up.

According to an announcement by the Prime Minister's Office, the ministers discussed countering what the statement called "a campaign of delegitimization that would deny the State of Israel of its right to defend itself." This included a presentation regarding the activities of the United Nations committee investigating May's confrontation between the Israel Navy and the Gaza-bound flotilla.

Haaretz has learned that the prime minister was angered by a report yesterday that the septet would discuss the settlement freeze and ordered that a statement be issued denying it. Senior Jerusalem sources have said Netanyahu has ordered a blackout on releases of details of the meeting.

The inner cabinet is scheduled to convene today to consider measures to protect the homefront, but it is possible that the settlement freeze and the peace talks will be raised.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor ) met in Amman yesterday with King Abdullah of Jordan, with Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai also present. The king called the current moment an opportunity that cannot be missed.

Herzog told Abdullah that Netanyahu is seeking direct negotiations on a final peace agreement and that the Labor Party is providing its full backing for advancing the process. Last night the king spoke by phone with Netanyahu.

In a speech marking the 37th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said his country was making every effort to save the peace process. He said peace was the real means of guaranteeing the security of all countries in the region, including Israel.

He called for peace talks to center on the borders of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines. He said such an approach would resolve a range of issues, including the settlement issue.