By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – An offer by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a ten-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank has been widely rejected by Palestinian lawmakers.
Prime Minister Netanyahu made the offer official after it was approved by his security cabinet on November 25. Netanyahu said that the move was a “very big step towards peace,” and said that he hoped the Palestinians and leaders from the Arab nations would take similar meaningful steps.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat quickly discounted Netanyahu’s characterization of the offer, instead calling it “propaganda.” Erekat said he believed the offer was aimed more at appeasing the Americans, rather than the Palestinians. The administration of American President Barack Obama has put pressure on Netanyahu’s government to make a serious effort to restart peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Peace talks broke off at the start of the military action between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.
Hannah Ashwari, a member of the Palestinian legislative council, also denounced the Israeli announcement, saying the freeze would not actually stop settlement construction in Palestinian territories. The Israeli temporary freeze would not include construction projects that have already begun, nor any construction in East Jerusalem. Palestinians hope to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.
“If you accept the fact that Jerusalem is excluded it means you have tacitly accepted that Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel,” said Ashwari.
The proposed settlement freeze has also drawn intense criticism from right-wing Jews in Israel. During a meeting for the ruling Likud party on November 28, many rank-and-file members lambasted the decision, blaming the Obama Administration, whom they see has forcing Netanyahu to halt settlement construction. One member called the Obama Administration “the worst regime there ever was for the State of Israel,” another said the settlement freeze was a “disgrace.”
Under the 2003 Middle East peace plan known as the Roadmap, Israel agreed to stop all settlement construction, while the Palestinians agreed to dismantle militant groups.
For more information, please see:
Ha’aretz – Likudniks Blast “Enemy of the Jews” Obama Over Settlement Freeze – 29 November 2009
Ma’an News Agency – Fayyad: World Should Demand Full Settlement Freeze – 29 November 2009
Palestinian News Agency – Palestinians Shun Israeli Settlement Restriction – 28 November 2009
Al Jazeera – Palestinians Reject Israeli Offer – 26 November 2009
Christian Science Monitor – Israel Settlement Freeze: Benjamin Netanyahu Promises 10-Month Halt, Angering Allies – 25 November 2009