Israel quietly freezes new building in East Jerusalem
Jerusalem City councilman Meir Margalit says the prime minister's office has put a de facto freeze on new building in East Jerusalem and meetings to approve such projects have ceased. He sees that as a sign Israel is ready to restart Palestinian peace talks.
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But Mr. Margalit says that since Biden's visit, the prime minister's office asked the Ministry of Interior, which must approve all such projects, "not to push forward any projects related to building in East Jerusalem." Some 11,000 new housing units which have already been authorized for construction in East Jerusalem will not be affected, he says, and this includes Ramat Shlomo.Skip to next paragraph
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Palestinians skeptical that Abbas's risks will pay off
Mr. Mitchell left the region on Sunday after intensive meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas. The veteran peace negotiator and former Senate majority leader plans to return next week with hopes of clinching an agreement on proximity talks. US officials in Tel Aviv indicated that such talks would begin by mid-May, and that Abbas would meet with Obama in Washington before then.
Many Palestinians, meanwhile, are skeptical as to whether the risks that Abbas is taking in order to enter peace talks will pay off.
"Taking risks to bring about a solution with Israel is a school of thought, politically speaking, that Abbas has been in for decades," says Zakaria al Qaq, the vice president of Al-Quds University and an expert on national security issues. But Dr. Qaq doubts that, given the circumstances in both Israeli and Palestinian society, the talks will progress to a meaningful outcome anytime soon.
"Abbas is a man of few alternatives right now, so of course it makes sense to begin talks," he says. However, the fact that there has been so much ado about "proximity talks" designed to set the stage for actual talks, Qaq says, leaves him and many Palestinians less than optimistic. It's an investment that few people are buying.
"Conflicting sides are supposed to start with proximity talks and move to direct talks," he says. "But here, we started with direct talks 18 years ago, and now we're moving to proximity talks? It's against the ABCs of negotiation."