The Palestinian Authority has rejected outright any further peace talks based on Israel’s offer to temporarily restrict Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.
Its chief negotiator says any settlement freeze that does not include East Jerusalem is unacceptable. He was responding to the Israeli prime minister’s announcement of a 10-month halt to some settlement development. Speaking live on television, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The suspension will not affect the construction already underway. It will not include the schools, the kindergartens, the synagogues and the public buildings necessary for the continuation of normal life over the period of the suspension.” The move has been welcomed in Washington but it is difficult to find any Palestinian in the political arena who sees the gesture as a step forward. The former Palestinian minister of information and Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti said: “What Netanyahu announced today is one of his biggest attempts at deception in his history. He is not talking about a halt in settlement construction, or a freeze in settlements and not even reducing settlements.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded a total halt to settlement construction before peace talks can resume. Israel’s offer applies only to “new construction permits” meaning some 3,000 homes already approved for building will not be affected and any construction projects planned for East Jerusalem will go ahead.