Settlement freeze reports 'an Israeli manoeuvre'

The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday that reports of an unofficial Israeli freeze in construction in Israeli West Bank settlements was a “new deceiving Israeli manoeuvre”.

“Israel’s new position is not enough,” chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters.

His remarks come after reports in Israel on Tuesday that since taking office the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued no new construction tenders for West Bank settlements.

Minister of Housing Ariel Attias, however, said it was not a government-sanctioned freeze, but a “waiting period” for the Defence Ministry to approve the tenders.

Netanyahu had publicly rejected a United States demand that Israel halt all settlements construction, saying that while no new settlements will be built, Israel would continue building within existing settlements to accommodate population expansion, so-called “natural growth”.

Erekat said the reports that even construction inside settlements has been halted was an attempt by Israel to try to “overcome the international pressure to halt settlement activities”.

He said the world had to exert more pressure on Israel to completely halt settlements.

The Palestinian Authority has said that peace talks between the sides, halted in September last year as Israel headed for parliamentary elections, will not be renewed until all settlement activity is halted.

“The Palestinian political stance is clear. Israel should implement the requirements of the roadmap peace plan, mainly stopping settlement, including what is termed as the natural growth of settlements,” Erekat said.

Asked if the Palestinian Authority would think about renewing the peace talks with Israel, if the latter temporarily freezes settlements, he said “the Palestinians and the international community won’t be deceived by such foggy statements”.

“The complete freeze of settlement has never been only a Palestinian condition, but it has been always an international demand, and it is written in the text of the internationally backed roadmap,” he said.—Sapa-dpa

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