It’s Upto Palestinians to Decide on Resumption of Peace Talks: Israel

In the wake of announcement of a settlement freeze, Israel’s foreign minister has said that now it’s upto the Palestinians to decide whether to resume Mideast peace talks.

“Ball is in the Palestinian court,” Avigdor Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio.

The statement came a day after Israel proposed a 10-month halt in West Bank settlement construction, which, however, was instantly turned down by Palestinians because it did not include east Jerusalem.

It may be mentioned that the US President Barack Obama had been urging the two sides to resume peace talks and suggested that the Israeli move could help them do so. The Palestinians adhere to the position that first all settlement construction ceases.

According to Lieberman, who is a settler himself, Israel has gone as far as possible in its overtures towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“What we could have contributed, we did,” Lieberman said. “The Palestinians will make their considerations based on internal considerations that don’t need to concern us.”

On the contrary, Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator said that Israel’s move was insignificant because current West Bank construction is not being stopped.

He pointed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement was aimed more toward appeasing American pressure rather than truly trying to reconcile with Palestinians.

“At the end of the day Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians, he doesn’t need to make peace with Americans,” Erekat told Army Radio. “If that is what he wants, that is his business. The last I know, Washington is 6,000 miles from Jerusalem, while Jericho is 67.”

Netanyahu also faces fierce opposition at home from pro-settler groups and even within his own right-wing coalition.

Dani Dayan, leader of the West Bank settlers’ council, accused Netanyahu of capitulating to American demands and getting nothing in return for his concessions.

He pledged to continue building as much as possible.

“We feel that he is going in a very slippery slope in which he is betraying his own beliefs,” he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “We will do everything in our capacity to keep building, to keep developing our communities, and I am optimistic that we will prevail.”

About 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements.

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