Netanyahu Headshot 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday told a closed meeting of his
advisers that "moderate and restrained" building in West Bank
settlements in the coming year will not affect the peace process.
Mitchell, Ashton to meet leaders for peace talks push
Arab League postpones meeting with Abbas on talks
Netanyahu's comments followed meetings he held on Friday with US Middle
East envoy George Mitchell and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in which both pleaded with him to extend the moratorium
on West Bank settlement construction, as the Palestinians stuck to
their insistence that all building must stop for fledgling peace talks
"The international community needs to call on the Palestinians to remain
in the peace talks. It's in the Palestinians best interest just as it
is in our own best interest," Netanyahu told his advisers.
"My government has made a number of unilateral gestures in order to
promote the peace talks," explained the prime minister. "Unfortunately, unlike us, the Palestinians are
only toughening their stance."
Netanyahu continued, "For 17 years they have negotiated with the Israeli government while
building was underway, including in the final year of the previous
government. It was not easy for us to freeze new building in Judea and
Samaria for 10 months, but I've fulfilled all of my obligations to the
Palestinians, the American government and the international community."
"We froze construction in order to give Abu Mazen [Palestinan Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas] an opening to enter into direct negotiations
without preconditions. Now I expect the Palestinians to show some
flexibility and remain in the talks."
Abbas on Friday told Mitchell that the there will be no further peace
negotiations with Israel as long as building in settlements continues,
Israel Radio reported.
Mitchell met with Abbas in Ramallah on
Friday after having met with Netanyahu in the hopes of finding a
compromise that could save the talks which have stalled following
Israel's decision earlier this week not to extend the moratorium.
Abbas's meeting with Mitchell, a Palestinian Authority spokesman said
that no breakthrough to revive the talks had been made and that Israel's
insistence on continuing construction in the settlements is preventing
progress towards reaching a peace agreement.
Authority official Yasser Abed Rabbo added that Israel's refusal to halt
settlement building is equivalent to a refusal to continue the peace
talks which began early in September.
Also on Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit criticized
the Palestinian Authority for its "insistence" on a moratorium on
building in the settlements.
In an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Hayat
, Aboul Gheit said
waiting for a renewed freeze will only complicate peace talks, and that
the most important issue is borders. Aboul Gheit also hinted that
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not think a
settlement freeze is essential.