Netanyahu: The Palestinians must show some flexibility

After Mitchell meets with PM and Abbas, PA president still says no further talks as long as settlement building continues.

Netanyahu Headshot 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
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.
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 to continue.
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"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.
Following 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.
Senior Palestinian 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.