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Palestinians reject Netanyahu's offer of partial settlement freeze

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-26

The Palestinian Authority slammed an Israeli offer to temporarily halt West Bank settlement building, saying the proposal was insubstantial and would not lead to a relaunch of peace negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to “restrict” new settlement constructions for 10 months in the occupied West Bank has failed to bring the Palestinian back to the negotiating table.

All eyes are now on Washington to see whether the Israeli offer will prompt the US to use its diplomatic clout to break the long-lasting deadlock over the resuming of negotiations.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem, Annette Young, says that US pressure is responsible for Israel’s proposal, recalling that Netanyahu had earlier tried to get some concessions from other Arab countries before committing to any partial freeze on settlement activity.

“This unconditional offer is a reflection of the sort of pressure Netanyahu is being under from Washington”, said Young.

The Obama administration has welcomed the Israeli offer, with special US Middle East envoy George Mitchell calling it “significant”.

“It falls short of a full settlement freeze, but it is more than any Israeli government has done before, and can help move toward agreement between the parties”, said Mitchell, implicitly acknowledging the 10-month ease would not be sufficient for Palestinians.

Defecting Washington’s pressure

While Netanyahu has presented the offer as proof of Israel’s genuine commitment to move peace efforts forward, however, Palestinians see it as a ploy by the Israelis for turning Washington’s attention back on them for their position.

“It’s up to Washington whether they can do anything to convince the Palestinians to rethink their stance of not going back to the negotiating table before a complete freeze on all settlement activities”, said FRANCE 24’s Annette Young.

The Palestinians have already dug in their heels, promptly rejecting the Israeli offer before it was even officially announced.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there was nothing new in Netanyahu’s proposal, adding that Israel continue building the 3,000 units in the West Bank that had recently been approved.

Deadlock over Jerusalem

Palestinians also consider the offer as inflammatory because it doesn’t freeze settlement activity in the largely Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel claimed as its “eternal and indivisible” capital after annexing it in the aftermath of the 1967 war.

While Israel is ramping up the pressure on the Palestinians to resume negotiations, there is little real hope that Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement restriction will be the first step towards a complete moratorium.

“It’s going to fuel domectic support for Palestinians to take unilateral steps, such as heading to the UN security council and asking them to consider recognising an independent Palestinian state without a negotiated solution” concluded FRANCE 24’s Annette Young.

Date created : 2009-11-26

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