PA intensifies attacks on settlement freeze

Erekat Settlement halt

Erekat gestures 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Erekat gestures 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday stepped up its rhetorical attacks on Israel, accusing the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of "political maneuvering" and "deception" following its decision to freeze construction in West Bank settlements for 10 months. The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official who also serves as a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, described the plan to freeze settlement construction as a "political maneuver" intended to bypass international demands for a complete cessation of all settlement activities and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Abed Rabbo said that the PA leadership would not agree to resume the peace talks unless Israel complied with the Road Map plan for peace and halted all construction work in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. "Netanyahu's plan shows that Israel is not serious about peace," he charged. "It does not call for a real halt to settlement construction, but a temporary freeze. In addition, it does not include Jerusalem." Abed Rabbo said that the Netanyahu plan did not constitute anything new. The Israeli government, he added, is trying to buy time so that it could create new facts on the ground and isolate Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. The PLO official said that the peace process required more than "theatrical" moves to succeed. He stressed, however, that the PA leadership would continue to support efforts made by US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to resume peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. Urging the US administration to work harder toward achieving a two-state solution, Abed Rabbo also called for increased pressure on Israel to force it to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, including eastern Jerusalem. Abed Rabbo reiterated the Palestinian's rejection of the idea of a state with temporary borders, saying it would undermine the two-state solution and turn the future Palestinian state into a protectorate living under Israel. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the Israeli decision as a "dangerous scheme," arguing that it was aimed to appease the Americans and not make peace with the Palestinians. He said that Netanyahu was seeking to deceive the world by pretending that he was halting all settlement construction, while in reality Israel would continue to build 3,000 new apartments in the West Bank and thousands of homes in Jerusalem. "The exclusion of Jerusalem is totally unacceptable," Erekat said. "Without setting a date for the start of final-status talks with Israel, the peace process would not be re-launched." The Fatah Central Committee said in a statement issued in Ramallah that the latest decision showed Netanyahu was "continuing to avoid the peace process and ignore all opportunities to achieve peace." The committee appealed to the international community, specifically the Quartet, to exert pressure on Israel to halt all settlement construction and refrain from creating new facts on the ground. Mohammed Dahlan, who is now being touted by some Palestinians as a potential successor to Abbas, also lashed out at the Netanyahu plan, dubbing it deceptive and misleading. "The issue of Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue," Dahlan said. "Ignoring the issue of Jerusalem will jeopardize the entire peace process." He also said Netanyahu's offer did not include anything new and could not be seen as a complete freeze of settlement construction. "The Netanyahu government is once again proving to the world that it does not want peace," Dahlan said. "It's continuing to use force to create new facts on the ground with the aim of isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. Dahlan also warned the US administration against rushing to welcome the Netanyahu plan "because it does not talk about a real cessation of settlement activities."