51st: End game? Or deal breaker? UPDATE 2

U.S. officials say that Jerusalem is part of the moratorium on building; Netanyahu has said otherwise to his coalition partners. Who will prevail?"But the U.S. official told Haaretz that "If the moratorium deal goes through, we will continue to press for quiet throughout East Jerusalem during the 90 days, regardless of what Bibi [Netanyahu] is telling Shas now.""The official added that President Barack Obama had committed in an oral message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last April that the U.S. expects both sides to refrain from "actions that would seriously undermine trust," including in East Jerusalem, and would respond with "steps, actions, or adjustments in policy" to any such provocative actions as long as negotiations are underway."http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-official-israel-must-refrain-from-east-jerusalem-construction-during-freeze-1.325378UPDATE: As I suspected the Clinton and Obama may not be in agreement about the offer: "The Israeli official said there appeared to be a disconnect between the White House and State Department with Obama unhappy that Clinton had offered so much for such a minimal concession." http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-ready-to-offer-israel-written-guarantees-if-it-would-restart-peace-talks-1.325659UPDATE2: Stephen Walt has some thoughts about how to make the 90 days work: "Here's my suggestion: assuming direct talks do resume under U.S. auspices, tell the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that the United States is going to keep a very careful record of who did and said what, and the United States will not hesitate to go public in the event that anybody starts making ridiculous demands, indulging in delaying tactics, or refusing to make reasonable concessions. Unlike Camp David 2000, where nothing was written down and no maps were exchanged (at Israel's insistence), this time we are going to prevent anybody from doing a lot of spin-control after the fact. In other words, the United States tells everyone we are going to act like an honest broker for a change, and if either side refuses to play ball, we are going to expose their recalcitrance in the eyes of the international community. Most importantly, this declaration can't be a bluff: if the talks bog down, the administration has to be prepared to go public." http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/16/a_modest_proposal_for_the_middle_east_peace_talksGrasping at straw???

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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