Palestinians say full settlement freeze is precondition to new peace talks
A lead Palestinian peace negotiator says the demand for a full settlement freeze – not a partial one – is a precondition to resuming peace talks. But a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas is still possible in September.
A senior Palestinian peace negotiator says the terms of a proposed Israeli deal to restart the peace process, leaked to the press this week, are unacceptable. But he did not rule out a meeting at the United Nations next month between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.Skip to next paragraph
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In Germany today, Mr. Netanyahu said that no new agreement to stop settlement building has been reached.
The proposed Israeli deal to temporarily freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank, with exceptions made for all of East Jerusalem and what Israel calls the "natural growth" of existing settlements, was reported by the Guardian, a British newspaper, on Tuesday.
In return, the US, Britain, and France would push for tougher economic sanctions on Iran's nuclear program and Arab states would agree to make steps toward normalizing relations with Israeli, both things the Jewish state dearly wants. The broad outlines of the proposal were confirmed for the Monitor by an Arab government official.
But there has been considerable skepticism that President Obama would link the US strategy for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions directly to the Arab-Israeli peace process. And notably absent from several days of speculation has been any real comment from the Arab countries whose support would be crucial.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erakat, a close aid to President Abbas, says that nothing short of a full settlement freeze would be acceptable.
"A comprehensive settlement freeze is critical to ongoing efforts to restore credibility to the peace process, and to creating an environment for meaningful negotiations," he said in a written response to questions from the Monitor. "The terms of a comprehensive settlement freeze are clearly spelled out in the Road Map. They include East Jerusalem and so called 'natural growth.'"
The 2003 "road map" for peace, which Israel agreed to, called for a freeze on settlement growth, which Palestinians see as undermining the feasibility of the future state they hope to establish.
Netanyahu was in Germany Thursday, and in a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to pour cold water over recent optimism that a breakthrough was near. "These rumors are baseless, there is no decision or agreement. There is an attempt to narrow the differences. But reports of agreement are simply not true," he said.