Several of the proposed steps relate to Gaza, where the authority’s rival, the Islamic militant group Hamas, holds sway. But Israel said that the beneficiaries of the improved infrastructure there would be the Gaza population, the Palestinian Authority and Israel itself.
Significantly, Israel has agreed to begin discussions on the development of a Palestinian Authority gas field adjacent to an Israeli gas field off the coast of Gaza, which need to be developed simultaneously. Future revenues from the Palestinian field will go to the authority, Mr. Netanyahu said.
Israel also agreed in principle to allow the development of electricity, sanitation and water projects in Gaza, including the introduction of desalination plants, with the intention of making Gaza “independent of Israeli infrastructure,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
In addition, Israel is supposed to approve additional construction projects and new procedures for the controlled entry of construction materials into Gaza.
Among the proposals for the West Bank, Israel said that it would speed up the building process for schools and health clinics in Israeli-controlled areas and that it approved in principle the extension of the Palestinian Authority’s security presence to seven towns in areas under Israeli security control, a longstanding authority demand.
Israel also said it encouraged projects for the improvement of infrastructure in Arab neighborhoods of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. The Palestinians and most countries of the world do not recognize Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.
The measures were announced before they had been formally presented to the Palestinian Authority, and there was no immediate response from the Palestinian side. Many details still have to be fleshed out in discussions over the next few months, and sounding a note of caution, Mr. Blair said, “Obviously, agreement to all this is not the same as implementation.” He added that “none of this is a substitute for a credible political process.”
Short-lived negotiations stalled in September after a 10-month Israeli moratorium on building new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank expired.
The Palestinians say they will not resume negotiations without an additional settlement freeze and clear terms of reference for the talks. Israeli officials have proposed offering alternative gestures and incentives as a way of coaxing the Palestinians back into negotiations. But there was no suggestion in the Netanyahu or Blair statements made Friday, or in a document outlining the new measures that was provided to The New York Times, that their implementation was conditional on a resumption of talks.