In an apparent indication of the type of compromise on the
settlement-construction moratorium that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in
mind, he told Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Sunday that Israel would neither stop
all construction in the West Bank after the moratorium ends on September 26, nor
build all the tens of thousands of housing units that are in various planning
“The Palestinians want that after the 26th of September there
will be no building in Judea and Samaria, and that will not happen,” the prime
to Netanyahu: Extend building freeze amid talks
says he ‘can’t allow even one concession’
“Israel cannot continue the moratorium,” Netanyahu
“On one hand, we will not build all the tens of thousands of
housing units that are waiting in the planning pipelines, but on the other hand,
we will not freeze life for the residents of Judea and Samaria and will not
He said that Israel would build as the Olmert and
Sharon governments built, meaning between 1,500 and 2,000 units a year. In this
way Netanyahu is hoping to “square the circle,” telling the Palestinians that
the current situation will continue, since building continued on about 2,500
units that were started before the moratorium went into effect in November,
while telling his coalition partners, who want to see building continue, that
the moratorium has ended.
Diplomatic sources said it was not clear, a day
before the second round of direct negotiations on Tuesday in Sharm e- Sheikh,
whether this formula would satisfy either the Palestinians or the
Palestinian Authority negotiator Nabil Sha’ath rejected one
possible scenario – that Israel would halt construction in outlying settlements
but allow building in settlement blocs closer to the Green Line.
said this would appear to give Israel the right to decide which settlements it
US President Barack Obama said last week he told Netanyahu
during their talks in Washington that “it makes sense to extend that moratorium
so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way.”
He also said he
called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to show the Israeli public that he is
“serious and constructive in these talks so that the politics for Prime Minister
Netanyahu – if he were to extend the settlements moratorium – would be a little
Netanyahu told Blair that he is not making recognition by
the PA of Israel as the nationstate of the Jewish people a precondition for
negotiations, and is not saying that if the Palestinians do not accept this
condition, that Israel would walk away from the negotiations.
same vein, it is not logical that the Palestinians now place preconditions and
threaten to abandon the talks. That is not the way to seriously progress towards
a peace agreement,” the prime minister said.
The Palestinians have said
repeatedly since the talks were relaunched earlier this month that they would
bolt the negotiations if the moratorium was not extended.
addressed the delicate political issue of the moratorium at a meeting with Likud
ministers on Sunday, signaling that a compromise was possible.
the situation does not have to be “everything or nothing,” but that a middle
ground also exists.
“It is impossible to accept a dictate not to build,
but it is necessary to think what is the smart thing to do,” Netanyahu said.
“Not renewing the moratorium will be viewed in the world as a serious test of
Israel’s willingness to make progress in the diplomatic
Netanyahu said there were 19,000 housing units in Judea and
Samaria in the planning process, and that it was clear that there was no need to
advance them all now.
Rather, he said, the building should be renewed
according to natural growth, as previous governments did. He said there would
not be a renewal of a moratorium based on orders from the defense minister, as
was done when the current moratorium was declared.
In the weekly cabinet
meeting that followed Netanyahu’s session with his Likud ministers, he did not
talk about the settlement freeze, but rather about the need for the Palestinians
to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, an issue he is
increasingly putting on the scale opposite the Palestinian demand for a
Netanyahu, who repeated that he felt it was
possible to reach a “framework that will be a basis for a peace settlement”
within a year, said that the agreement needed to be based first of all “on the
recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
conflict between us and the Palestinians, as opposed to other conflicts that
were resolved by peace agreements, is over the same piece of ground. We say that
the solution is two states for two peoples, meaning two national states, a
Jewish national state and a Palestinian national state,” he said.
regret, I have yet to hear from the Palestinians the phrase ‘two states for two
peoples.’ I hear them saying ‘two states,’ but I do not hear them recognizing
two states for two peoples.”
This recognition was necessary if there was
to be a true peace agreement that would end claims against Israel and put an end
to the conflict between the two peoples, Netanyahu said.
Avigdor Lieberman is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Clinton, along with US Mideast envoy George
Mitchell, will participate in Tuesday’s talks in Sharm, and then will fly to
Jerusalem on Wednesday, where the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks are scheduled
Lieberman has been a vocal critic of the process, and
Clinton’s request to meet with him was viewed as an effort to temper his
Lieberman was originally scheduled to fly to Washington this
week to participate in a conference, and also to meet with US Vice President Joe
Biden and National Security Adviser James Jones. Because of the Clinton visit,
that trip has been canceled.
Instead, Lieberman is expected to fly to New
York at the end of the month and represent Israel at the UN General Assembly.
This will be the first time that Lieberman will take part in the General
Assembly meeting. Netanyahu addressed the gathering last year.