'Peace talks will fail if West Bank construction resumes'

In rare interview with Hamas media, top PA negotiator warns Israel against renewing W.Bank building when freeze expires on September 26.

Erekat 311 (photo credit: AP)
Erekat 311
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will cause the recently relaunched peace talks to fail if it resumes building in West Bank settlements, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying Monday.
Israel Radio cited a rare interview the senior PA official gave to a Hamas newspaper based in the Gaza Strip.
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The comments came a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Sunday that Israel would neither stop all construction in the West Bank after the moratorium ends on September 26, nor build all the tens of thousands of housing units that are in various planning phases.
“The Palestinians want that after the 26th of September there will be no building in Judea and Samaria, and that will not happen,” the prime minister said.
He said that Israel would build as the Olmert and Sharon governments built, meaning between 1,500 and 2,000 units a year. In this way Netanyahu is hoping to “square the circle,” telling the Palestinians that the current situation will continue, since building continued on about 2,500 units that were started before the moratorium went into effect in November, while telling his coalition partners, who want to see building continue, that the moratorium has ended.
Diplomatic sources said it was not clear, a day before the second round of direct negotiations on Tuesday in Sharm e-Sheikh, whether this formula would satisfy either the Palestinians or the Americans.
PA negotiator Nabil Sha’ath rejected one possible scenario – that Israel would halt construction in outlying settlements but allow building in settlement blocs closer to the Green Line.
Sha’ath said this would appear to give Israel the right to decide which settlements it will keep.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.