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Will Abbas get, and accept, a two-month settlement freeze?

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Meanwhile, Israel's ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Washington Post that the US has offered Israel ''incentives'' that could enable it to ''maybe pass a limited extension of two or three months'' on settlement curbs. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined to specify what the incentives are. ''The talks are delicate, sensitive and any public discussion will torpedo them,'' he said.

David Makovsky, of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote at the end of last month, citing an unidentified source, that President Obama's administration had sent Netanyahu a letter promising better weapons, a US veto of any security council resolutions about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to pressure an independent Palestine to allow Israel to keep its troops inside the country in exchange for a two-month freeze.

The ball now appears to be in Mr. Abbas's court, and his position will become clearer Friday when he addresses an Arab League meeting over whether to continue direct negotiations with Israel that were launched on September 2. Abbas is in political limbo, with growing numbers of Palestinians doubting that his bet that a viable Palestinian state will be achieved through negotiations with Israel will pay off.

But if he does carry on – as seems likely after Mr. Shaath's comments – it will be a confirmation that at this point, negotiations are what make Mr. Abbas tick.

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