Israel has promised to build no new settlements on the West Bank until the beginning of 2010. The Israeli government says the decision should be seen as a gesture towards the United States.
US President Barack Obama reacted positively to the offer, which he described as “a step in the right direction”. Ever since he took office, Mr Obama has been calling on Israel to stop building the settlements. He hinted that he now expects a similar gesture from the Palestinians.
On Tuesday, the Mr Obama received Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Washington. It was Mr Mubarak’s first visit to the US in five years.
After the meeting, which took place behind closed doors, Mr Mubarak praised Mr Obama for the recent inspiring speech he delivered in Cairo about his plans for the region. A representative for Mr Mubarak said the US hoped to produce a new peace plan for the Middle East next month. The White House said nothing concrete was planned.
Next week, the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will meet Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in London.