Netanyahu declines Obama’s request to expand settlement freeze
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, The Israeli media reported that premier Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed a request made by US president Barack Obama to expand settlement freeze and called on de facto president Mahmoud Abbas not to withdraw from the peace talks.
Netanyahu, in a statement issued Sunday after the alleged period of settlement freeze expired, called on Abbas to continue his involvement in what he described as sincere and good talks with Israel in order to reach a historic peace agreement between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) for its part announced on Monday that its final response to Israel’s resumption of settlement construction would be stated following the meeting of the Arab peace initiative committee on the fourth of next October.
The US administration stated that its position on the need to expand settlement freeze did not change, but it called on Israelis and Abbas to continue their peace talks regardless of settlement activities.
David Axelrod, a senior advisor to Obama, told ABC satellite channel that Washington still believes it is possible to reach a compromise on the issue of settlement activities, although the Israeli settlers would resume construction in the West Bank immediately after the freeze period ends.
On the ground, settlement construction started Monday morning throughout the West Bank a few hours after the period specified for the alleged settlement freeze expired.
Settlers of Efrat outpost embarked immediately under military protection on bulldozing Palestinian lands owned by Abu Ayyash family in Al-Khalil city.
An Israeli TV channel said, for its part, that construction would resume in eight settlements including Kiryat Arba in Al-Khalil.
Palestinian local sources also said that settlement construction began in Yitzhar settlement, south of Nablus city, and in the industrial zone, west of Salfit city.
Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that dozens of settlers started to build 50 housing units in Ariel settlement, north of Salfit city.
Israeli bulldozers started its work in Adam settlement, north of the West Bank, as a prelude to building 30 homes, according to the Hebrew radio. Restrictions imposed on issuing building permits in many settlements were reportedly lifted.
Haaretz newspaper, for its part, said that there are talks between American, Israeli, and Palestinian officials to reach a compromise preventing the PA from withdrawing from the peace talks as a result of the resumed settlement activities.
In the same context, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated Monday that Israel’s resumption of its settlement activities proved its malicious intentions and its use of the peace talks as a cover for Judaizing the Palestinian lands and the holy sites.
Spokesman Barhoum called on Abbas to announce his withdrawal from the talks with Israel, which are determinatal to the Palestinian cause and against the national consensus as he described.
He warned that Israel wants Abbas to stay involved in the negotiation with it in order force him further into the corner of its demands.