US President Barack Obama understands that the Israeli government has to uphold its commitment to end the 10- month moratorium on new settlement construction on September 26, settler leader Dani Dayan said on Tuesday night.

He spoke with The Jerusalem Post after listening to the televised press briefing between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington.

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Settlers had feared that during the briefing they would hear Netanyahu speak of, or hint at, extending the moratorium beyond its promised date.

It has widely been assumed that Israel would have to take that step in order to hold direct meetings with the Palestinians.

So they were pleasantly surprised by Obama’s statement that he hoped direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians would begin “well before the moratorium has expired.”

The underlying assumption in the statement is that Obama expects the moratorium to end, said Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

“Even Obama understands that Netanyahu has made a commitment to his people,” said Dayan.

“I view with satisfaction the underlying assumption in Obama’s words that a promise is a promise, a date is a date and the obligation to resume building has to be fulfilled,” said Dayan.

He called on the government to make all the necessary preparations so that construction in the settlements could begin immediately at the end of September.

But not everyone shared his optimistic interpretations of Netanyahu’s remarks.

Benny Katzover, who heads the Samaria Citizens Committee, said he was concerned that Netanyahu has promised Obama to continue to curb settlement development when the two met privately.

“We will continue to pursue this with concern,” said Katzover, who earlier in the evening attended a small demonstration outside the US Consulate in west Jerusalem.

“If Obama puts pressure on Bibi and Bibi gives in to this pressure, then Bibi won’t have a coalition anymore,” MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) warned the group of approximately 50 protesters.

“If Obama is putting pressure on Netanyahu, then he is putting pressure on Netanyahu the man and not Netanyahu the prime minister,” said Eldad.

Leaders of pro-Israel organization Komemiut and the Binyamin and Samaria citizens committees called their supporters to Independence Park on Tuesday because they are worried that Netanyahu – who does not need Knesset approval to extend the moratorium – lacked the “chutzpa” to stand up to Obama.

The protesters’ reasons are three-fold, according to Yitzhak Shadmi, who heads the Binyamin Citizens Committee.

Protesters on Tuesday wanted to make sure Netanyahu adhered to the best interests of his people.

“[Bibi] was the first prime minister to accept the concept of a Palestinian state; he was the first prime minister to stop de facto building in Jerusalem; and he was the first prime minister to freeze new building in Judea and Samaria,” he said.

“Netanyahu has to be able to tell Obama ‘over my dead body’ will we extend the settlement freeze.”

Dr. Amy Rosenbluth, who identified herself as a “citizen of the State of Israel,” wanted to warn Netanyahu specifically about the consequences of shirking his duty to his people.

“We want to give a message to Netanyahu that he was elected by the Jewish people in Israel on a specific platform, which calls for the continued growth and building of the Jews’ presence in Israel,” she said.

“The Likud platform supports continuing and not shrinking from [the 1967] borders.”

Although demonstrators called on their own government to uphold their promise to end the freeze after 10 months, Obama was not free from their scrutiny either.

“The Arabs and Israelis don’t need [the US] as a mediator,” Shadmi told Obama. “Leave us in peace.”

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