25 Nov 2009

Israel offers partial halt to West Bank settlement building

Israel tonight proposed a 10-month partial halt to settlement building on the occupied West Bank as a prelude to restarting peace talks, but Palestinian officials were quick to dismiss it as unacceptable.


Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the offer was a policy of "restraint" that was in Israel's national interest. "This is a far-reaching and painful step. We authorise it because of our deep desire to move forward towards peace," he said in a televised press conference. He wanted a "historic peace agreement to finally end the conflict".

It did not seem likely to bring the two sides together. Even before it was publicly announced, Palestinian officials said only a full halt to all settlement building – in line with Israel's obligations under the 2003 US road map – would allow peace talks to restart for the first time in a year. guardian.co.uk


Before the announcement, the Palestinians warned they would reject the measure, as it fell short of their demand for a complete freeze on illegal settlements in the West Bank.

"This sort of announcement is not a halt to settlements, because Israel will continue to build 3,000 settlement units and government buildings in the West Bank and will exclude Jerusalem," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

builtupIsrael must also restart negotiations from the point where they left off under centrist former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Erakat added.

On Wednesday, Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said mostly Palestinian East Jerusalem would have to be included in any settlement moratorium. "The exclusion of Jerusalem is a very, very serious problem for us," he told reporters.

Without a total settlement freeze, Israel is not living up to the obligations it undertook as part of the 2003 international roadmap for peace plan.

All Jewish settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on Arab land (mainly Palestinian), illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.  Middle East Online