Is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nearing his second declaration in four years on a building freeze in the West Bank in order to facilitate the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians?
The answer is probably no.
An official source in Jerusalem told The Israel Post that "Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] received this opportunity once. This will not happen again."
"If the Palestinians want to talk they know we are waiting for them at the table," the source said.
After four years rounds of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the last two months in an effort to renew the stalled peace process US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday in Tel Aviv that that the decision making time has arrived and the ball is in Netanyahu and Abbas's court.
“We are reaching the time where the leaders need to make hard decisions,” Kerry said.
Kerry urged Israel to voluntarily halt settlement activity, but added that the demand for such a freeze, as a pre-condition to direct talks, was not helpful.
“We are trying to get to talks without pre-conditions,” said Kerry. "We do not want to get stuck in a place where we are arguing about a particular substantive issue that is part of a final settlement that and that argument takes you so long, that you never get to the negotiations that bring about the final settlement,” Kerry said.
The Palestinians insist that they would not talk with Israel until it had halted West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to cede to that request and has insisted that talks should be held without pre-conditions.
On Saturday, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said that Israel should dismantle isolated settlements immediately without waiting for negotiations, Israel Radio reported.
"These settlements cost us a lot of money and we must do the utmost so we do not appear to be a state that does everything to scuttle negotiations," Cohen said in a cultural event at Holon Theater.
Cohen added that Israel had lost control of the settlers in some instances and in particular it had lost control of the "hill-top youth."
"We must deal with this youth and bring them back to normal behavior," Cohen said.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.
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