The Palestinian Authority has strongly rejected Israel’s proposed settlement freeze as the temporary move does not include Jerusalem Al-Quds.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said his government approved a 10-month halt to the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.
However, Israel would not stop construction in East Jerusalem Al-Quds or halt public buildings in the West Bank such as synagogues and kindergartens, he said.
Describing the moratorium as a “painful step”, Netanyahu said Tel Aviv was “taking the issue out of broad national security considerations with the goal of renewing negotiations to achieve peace with our neighbors, the Palestinians.”
But the announcement drew sharp criticism from the Palestinians, who argue the 10-month suspension would mean about 3,000 units already under construction could be finished.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, announced on Wednesday night that the Palestinians “reject returning to peace talks without the complete cessation of settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem”.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat dismissed Netanyahu’s plan as fraudulent and later urged the US to pressure Israel to freeze all construction activity completely so that peace talks may resume.
“Netanyahu did not advance any formula for the re-launching of negotiations,” he told AFP.
Fatah’s strongman Mohammed Dahlan also stated that Netanyahu’s offer “proves once again that Israel is interested not in peace, but in creating facts on the ground”, and warned that “overlooking ongoing construction in Jerusalem will put the peace process in jeopardy.”
Israel has been turning a deaf ear to international calls for a complete freeze on its construction activity on the occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank, including the illegally annexed East Jerusalem Al-Quds which Israel seized during the six-day war in 1967.
Israel approved the construction of 455 housing units on the West Bank in September while work is under way on another 2,500 units. Netanyahu has said settlers should be allowed to build new homes and schools in existing settlements to accommodate the growing population.
In mid-November, Israeli authorities also approved the building of 900 new homes in Gilo, one of a dozen Israeli settlements built beyond the 1967 borders