Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said ‘the ball’ for restarting Middle East peace talks is now in court of the Palestinians.
His declaration follows yesterday’s move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ordering a 10-month halt of some settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has shunned the Israeli offer saying any settlement freeze that does not include East Jerusalem is unacceptable. Many Jews are also angry about Netanyahu’s offer. ‘‘The basic problem is not settlements. The basic problem is not building. The basic problem is terrorism, the basic problem is that the Arabs have never accepted the Jewish presence here,’‘ one Jewish settler said. ‘‘I don’t understand why Netanyahu would continue this policy of giving land to the Palestinians and what are the Jews going to get in return?’‘ said another. West Bank Palestinians also voiced their disappointment over the Israeli plan to partially freeze settlements. ‘‘If the freezing of the settlements isn’t done root and branch and isn’t complete, then this is only empty talk,’‘ said one Palestinian resident in Hebron. ‘‘Its intended to fool Arabs. They are saying they are stopping settlements while building in all areas, they have changed the face of Jerusalem, they have changed the face of Hebron including the Old City,’‘ said another. The US described the Israeli move as significant, even though Netanyahu has pledged those projects already approved, such as in East Jerusalem, will go ahead.