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Benjamin Netanyahu rejects demands to continue settlement freeze
08-23-2010, 07:32 AM,
Benjamin Netanyahu rejects demands to continue settlement freeze
Quote:Pressed by ministers from his ruling Likud party ahead of last night’s weekly cabinet meeting, Benjamin Netanyahu said he had not changed his position that the 10-month building moratorium would not be renewed when it expired on September 26.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee over the weekend endorsed Palestinian participation in the face-to-face talks, declared by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, and scheduled to begin in Washington on September 2nd.

But its chief negotiator Saeb Erekat linked the success of the discussions with a continuation of the building freeze. “If the Israeli government decides to announce new tenders on September 26th, then we won’t be able to continue with the talks,” he warned.

Mr Netanyahu leads a largely right-wing and religious coalition which is committed to Jewish settlement across the West Bank, and the Israeli prime minister has already warned that extending the moratorium would risk the future of his government.

Two moderate ministers have proposed a compromise under which building will only continue in the larger West Bank settlement blocs, areas which Israel hopes to incorporate under a final peace agreement.

Such a policy, which is likely to meet stiff opposition from other ministers, is similar to that adopted by the previous Israeli government headed by Ehud Olmert.

Despite the difficulties, Mr Netanyahu said Sunday that the optimistic target set by Mrs Clinton of reaching a comprehensive peace deal within a year was possible.

He said compromises would be required from both sides.

Mr Netanyahu said any deal must provide real security for Israel, provide a solution to the refugee problem within a future demilitarised Palestinian state, and must include Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and an 'end of conflict’ clause.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague called the resumption of direct negotiations a “courageous step” towards peace in the region. “Urgent progress must now be made,” he said. “We call on all parties to refrain from any activity that could undermine negotiations.”
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