Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to a West Bank settlement freeze of nine months, not the previously agreed six, Israel Army Radio quoted unnamed Jerusalem sources as reporting on Friday.
According to the report, the deal came in a Friday morning meeting between Netanyahu and visiting U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, during which the possibility was also raised of Israel making additional moves to ease Palestinians' lives in order to try and convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet Netanyahu and resume the peace process.
Spokesmen from Israeli Prime Minister's office (PMO) are at the moment unavailable for comment, and Xinhua could not immediately confirm the reported 9-month settlement freeze.
On Friday morning, Netanyahu and Mitchell met in Jerusalem for the third time this week, in attempts to reach agreements leading to a summit the Americans are interested in organizing between Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and Abbas.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu and Mitchell held two meetings, with no agreement announced on the settlements issue. A statement from the PMO said the meetings were good but did not disclose whether any specific progress was made.
After Friday morning's meeting, Mitchell headed to Ramallah for a meeting with Abbas and will return to Jerusalem for the fourth meeting with Netanyahu before the beginning of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year's Day.
So far, the talks have failed to yield an agreement between Israel and the United States, while the Palestinian are imposing conditions for a tripartite New York summit next week, during the UN General Assembly. The main bone of contention remains the settlement construction, its duration and exact nature.
Netanyahu has reiterated that he would not agree to a complete settlement freeze, while the Palestinians are making this a condition for relaunching the negotiations.
Israel also wants to know what normalization gestures Arab countries are willing to provide in order to restart the regional peace process.