With the end of the 10- month settlement moratorium only a week away, Israeli
and Palestinian negotiators are expected to meet in the coming days to try and
arrange another meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to broker a deal enabling the
just-started direct talks to continue.
The moratorium is set to expire on
Sunday night, September 26. While there has been some confusion over whether the
freeze expires on September 26 – 10 months after the moratorium was approved by
the cabinet – or four days later on September 30, when the order was signed by
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, senior government officials have said in recent
days that the earlier date is when the moratorium ends.RELATED:
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negotiator is expected to travel to the US on Monday for meetings with chief PA
negotiator Saeb Erekat.
In addition, Barak will hold a series of meetings
that day in Washington and New York with top US officials, including Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security
Adviser James Jones and presidential adviser Dennis Ross.
leaders expressed concern on Sunday night that Barak might be working out a
compromise to present to the ministers of Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, a body
known as the “septet,” as a “done deal.”
President Shimon Peres is also
in the US, for the opening of the UN General Assembly meeting and a conference
hosted by former president Bill Clinton, and he is expected to meet with Abbas
as well and discuss the moratorium.
Abbas has said he will bolt the talks
if the moratorium is not extended.
Hillary Clinton, in an ABC interview
taped last week in Jerusalem but aired on Sunday, reiterated that the US
believes the moratorium should be extended. Asked whether the US is pressing
Abbas to remain in the talks even if the freeze is lifted, Clinton said, “We
don’t want either party to leave these negotiations or to do anything that
causes the other to leave the negotiations.”
continued to keep his plans regarding the day after the moratorium ends very
close to his chest.
Speaking on Sunday at a meeting of Likud ministers,
Netanyahu said he could not go into details of his talks with Abbas because of
their sensitive nature, but that “there has been no change in our position”
regarding the moratorium.
Netanyahu has said on a number of occasions
that the government decision limiting the moratorium to 10 months will not be
changed. He also has said in recent weeks that building in the settlements was
not an all or nothing proposition, and that the end of the freeze did not mean
the automatic beginning of the construction of tens of thousands of
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in an Army Radio interview,
acknowledged that Netanyahu was coming under “massive” US pressure to renew the
moratorium. “But,” he said, the “job of leaders is to stand up to pressure. If
we can’t withstand pressure on a relatively simple issue like continuing
building in Judea and Samaria, how can we defend other interests.”
whether this meant Israel should build “as if nothing has happened,” Lieberman
said there were 2,000 housing units that didn’t need any additional permission
or permits, and there was no reason building on these units could not begin
immediately. He said he did not think this would lead to an “explosion” with the
Shas head Eli Yishai, who like Lieberman sits on the “septet,” also
said on Sunday that the moratorium needed to be lifted.
Abbas met with
prime minister Ehud Olmert every two weeks without a moratorium, Yishai said,
adding that if Abbas wanted an excuse to stop the talks he could always find
The majority of the country wants the building to continue, and
“surrendering to a dictate” on this matter would not lead to a
diplomatic process, Yishai said.
Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay
Braverman (Labor) disagreed, saying that this was a marginal issue in
to others such as security and borders. Netanyahu needed to lead on this
and a decision to extend the moratorium would be welcomed both in the
by most of the country, Braverman said. “If there needs to be changes in
coalition [as a result], there will be changes,” he said.