Monday, October 18, 2010
Abbas: I won't resume talks until building freeze renewed
HERB KEINON, TOVAH LAZAROFF AND JERUSALEM POST
PA president says he is willing to accept a "silent freeze"; and "whole world" is saying the settlement moratorium must continue, why can't I? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told an Israeli interviewer on Sunday that he had passed on four messages to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he was willing to accept a “silent freeze” on building in the settlements to continue negotiations with Israel.
Abbas told Channel 1’s Oded Granot that there was a worldwide consensus regarding the construction freeze, and reiterated that he would not resume peace talks until Israel renewed its settlement moratorium.
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“When Obama became president, he was the one who declared that the ‘settlement construction must be stopped.’ The United States says it, Europe says it, the whole world is saying it – why should I not say it?” Abbas told Granot that “when we went to Annapolis, everyone who was present – more than 50 states – said that settlement building must be stopped. At the same time, President [George W.] Bush said, ‘We shall carry out this mission and supervise it.
We shall create a freeze committee to supervise the construction freeze in settlements.’ We relied on Bush’s statement and went ahead with negotiations.”
The PA president said that Netanyahu had explained to him that he could not comply with demands to extend the freeze.
“Netanyahu told me, ‘I cannot under any circumstance, because I fear for my government.’ Government is not more precious than peace.
Government is not more precious that the future of both peoples,” Abbas said.
Asked about Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s claim that the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state would prompt future national claims by Arab Israelis, Abbas asserted, “These claims are groundless. We recognized the State of Israel in 1993, we negotiated, the PLO came here and we signed dozens of agreements. We recognize that the Palestinian state should be established on the 1967 borders.
If we reach this, there is something else of importance – ending the conflict.
“We are ready to do this,” he continued. “We are ready to put an end to the historic demands. But when Lieberman comes up with such demands – he is not interested in peace.”
A government official confirmed Sunday night that the issue of a non-publicized freeze had been discussed a number of times, but that it was “impractical.”
“What is a silent freeze?” the official asked. “How do the Palestinians explain they are going back to the talks? They will have to say there is no building, so as a result there will be no ‘silent freeze.’” Likewise, he said, it would be impossible to keep a freeze “silent” when people living in the settlements asked for permits to build and then got turned down.
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said he thought Abbas’s words were a “demonstration of chutzpa.”
“After you clear all the propaganda and all the distortions, the only relevant truth is that Israel came to the negotiating table with clean hands and without preconditions, and Mr.
Abbas refused to negotiate.
This is the only thing that matters. So the fact that he says that Israel does not want peace is a blatant demonstration of chutzpa,” said Dayan.
He called on Netanyahu not to allow a silent freeze, and to authorize new construction in Judea and Samaria.
The last list of public tenders published by the Housing and Construction Ministry did not include any projects in West Bank settlements.
It did include 238 new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
International condemnation of those east Jerusalem homes, said Dayan, is “the direct result of the fact that there are no [tenders for] construction in Judea and Samaria. It moved the front lines to Jerusalem and makes the world concentrate on tenders there.”