Yesha urges PM to make call on freeze

Council wants Netanyahu to show intentions before talks.

pj crowley 311 (photo credit: AP)
pj crowley 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, calling on him to have Defense Minister Ehud Barak immediately sign on September 26 orders allowing for the building of West Bank projects that have already passed through all the relevant planning committees.
The letter called on Netanyahu to make his intentions known to approve the construction even before he goes to Washington, and that if Barak refuses to sign, for the prime minister to do so himself.
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“Avoiding authorizing the tenders already on September 26 is like continuing the freeze, with all that implies diplomatically, publicly and politically,” the letter read. “That is judgment day.”
Also speaking ahead of the imminent onset of long-sought direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a senior American official said on Tuesday that the US administration expects that neither side will take any measure to poison the atmosphere or derail the talks.
The official, in a briefing in Jerusalem with Israeli journalists, was asked repeatedly, and in various variations, how the administration would react to an end to the settlement housing-start moratorium on September 26. The official would not answer directly, but only repeated the mantra about Washington expecting that both sides not do anything to harm the atmosphere or derail the talks.
The official then went to Ramallah for a similar briefing with Palestinian reporters.
On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the moratorium issue would be a topic of discussion when Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to launch the direct talks next Thursday in Washington.
“We are very mindful of the Palestinian position and once we’re now into direct negotiations, we expect that both parties will do everything within their power to create an environment for those negotiations to continue constructively,” Crowley said when asked about the Palestinian threat to quit the talks if the moratorium was not renewed.
The administration has signaled that after working for months to get the direct talks started, something Israel has said it wanted, it would be difficult to understand why Jerusalem would take steps at the very outset of those talks that would lead Abbas to walk away from the negotiating table. Abbas has repeatedly threatened to quit the negotiations if settlement construction was resumed.
The administration official briefing reporters in Jerusalem said that the US’s position on the settlements had not changed, and that Washington “doesn’t accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
The official said there were no “clandestine” understandings with either side that enabled the launching of direct talks after so long, and that there were no preconditions to the discussions.
All the issues would be on the table, and it would be up to the sides to determine the order of the discussions, the official said. While the Palestinians have indicated that they want to discuss the settlements first, Israel has said it was interested in starting with a discussion of security issues.
Regarding the American role, the official would not say whether US envoy George Mitchell would be sitting in on the negotiations, and that the logistics of how the negotiations would be conducted still had to be worked out and agreed upon.
“The process is not important,” the official said. “What are important are the results.”
However, if there were impasses in the talks, the US might play an active role and offer ideas to bridge gaps, he said.
The goal was to reach a comprehensive agreement, not a temporary one.
In addition to Egypt and Jordan, other countries in the region – such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman – have been helpful in creating a regional atmosphere conducive to talks, the US official said.
The Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday night that the Saudi cabinet welcomed the resumption of direct talks. The statement came a day after Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who has been actively backing direct talks.