Israeli-Palestinian peace talks still on – but for how long?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is consulting with Arab and Western leaders over whether to stick with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after Israel’s settlement freeze expired.
Oranit, West Bank
Despite the expiration of Israel's settlement freeze at midnight Sunday, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are still on – thanks in part to intense American pressure.Skip to next paragraph
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But for how long is an open question. Within hours of the freeze expiring, bulldozers rumbled to life at the West Bank settlement of Oranit, adding to what many Palestinians believe are the "facts on the ground" that jeopardize good-faith negotiations.
As the moratorium expired, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to back away from his threat to abandon talks if the freeze was not extended.
"I call on President Abbas to continue the good and sincere talks that we have just started,'' he said in a statement. "I say to President Abbas: For the future of both our peoples, let us focus on what is really important. Let us proceed in accelerated, sincere, and continuous talks in order to bring about an historic peace framework agreement within one year.''
Mr. Abbas agreed not to pull out of talks immediately, pending consultations with Arab and Western leaders. Some hope that Israel will propose a restriction on settlement expansion short of a full freeze that might convince Abbas to stick with the talks.
Settlement building resumes
Abbas may be honoring President Obama's request to stick with the talks, but Israel has been far tougher with the US president. Mr. Obama's pleas for a full settlement expansion freeze were brushed off by Israel.
Construction reportedly resumed on dozens of settler housing units throughout the West Bank on Monday, where Israel has authorized the construction of about 2,000 new housing units for settlers.
New Israeli building could turn Palestinian public opinion further against engagement, leaving Abbas the choice of pleasing the United States, his key financial backer, at the expense of the support of his people.