Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that no peace
deal is possible unless Israel stops settlement construction, but he did not
threaten to walk away from the negotiating table if the settlement construction
moratorium expires as scheduled on Sunday at midnight.
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choose between peace and the continuation of settlements,” Abbas said in his
address to the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting.
meanwhile, government sources said that Israel was “open to compromises” on the
issue, and there were a number of ideas that Jerusalem could live
The sources said that intensive talks on the matter were continuing
in the US, in an effort to keep the issue from derailing the direct talks that
were restarted at the beginning of the month.
One of the ideas that have
been raised is to extend the freeze for another three months, and set that as a
deadline by which Israel and the PA must reach an agreement on borders – so that
Israel would then know exactly where it was free to build.
a variation of the same theme, is to extend the moratorium by another three
months, but exclude from this moratorium some 2,000 units for which all the necessary permits have
been granted and on which building could start immediately.
ideas that have been raised are the following:
• Agree to the number of units
that can be constructed each year, based on natural growth;
• Allow building in
the large settlement blocks in areas adjacent to the existing construction line,
but allow only the construction of public buildings needed for natural growth in
all other settlements;
• Agree to gradual construction now, and to extend the
moratorium at the beginning of the year, when the talks move into a more
• Allow housing construction in the largest settlements –
Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Ilit, Modi’in Ilit and Ariel – but construction for public
building only in the rest of the settlements.
As of Saturday night, no
special governmental meeting has been scheduled for Sunday to discuss these or
any other options that may be on the table.
In recent days, Israel has
come under intense pressure from the US, the EU, the Quartet and the UN to
extend the moratorium to prevent Abbas from bolting from the negotiating table,
as he has threatened to do.
Abbas is also coming under pressure not to
carry out his threat, and to give the direct talks more time.
Minister Ehud Barak is spearheading Israel’s efforts to find a compromise
solution, and has extended his stay in New York, where, along with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, they have held a
series of conversations on the matter over the last few days on the sidelines of
the UN General Assembly meeting with both US and Palestinian
Netanyahu, meanwhile, hosted Quartet envoy Tony Blair in his
succa Friday, where this issued was discussed.
Netanyahu has said that
the government decision taken 10 months ago to freeze settlement construction
would not be renewed. As a result, and barring a new decision by the security
cabinet, it will expire at midnight on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in his speech
to the UN, Abbas reaffirmed the Palestinian commitment to try to reach a peace
“We have decided to enter into final status negotiations. We will
continue to exert every effort to reach an agreement for Palestinian-Israeli
peace within one year in accordance with resolutions of international
legitimacy... and the vision of the two-state solution,” he said.
demands for the cessation of settlement activities, the lifting of the siege [of
Gaza] and an end to all other illegal Israel policies and practices do not
constitute arbitrary preconditions in the peace process.”
These are past
obligations that Israel is required to implement, he said, and Israel’s
implementation “will lead to the creation of the necessary environment for the
success of the negotiations.”
Abbas said the Palestinians and the wider
Middle East are continuously pushed into “the corner of violence and conflict”
as a result of Israel’s “mentality of expansion and domination.”
demanded an end to what he said was Israel’s destruction of the historical
identity of Jerusalem, its flouting of UN resolutions, and the blockade of the
Israel, Abbas told the General Assembly, should be compelled
“particularly to cease all settlement activities in the occupied annexation
apartheid wall and end the policy of blockade and closures and the removal of
the checkpoints that restrict the lives and movement of our people and deprive
them of their basic human rights.”
Abbas thanked US President Barack
Obama in his speech, “who affirmed in his statement before the Assembly two days
ago the two-state solution and the necessity for a freeze of settlement
activities, as well as his deep hope for the establishment of the independent
state of Palestine and its full membership in the United Nations.
this occasion, we affirm our complete readiness to cooperate with the American
efforts for the success of the political process to reach a comprehensive, just
and lasting peace in the region,” Abbas said.
State Department spokesman
P.J. Crowley said US special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell would
meet Abbas on Saturday. “We are doing everything we can to keep the parties in
direct talks,” Crowley said.
On Friday, Abbas met for some 25 minutes
with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.Jordana Horn in New York and
AP contributed to this report.