The Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has rejected the Netanyahu government’s reported building freeze as a gimmick that does not affect current construction projects for Jews in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
The reported freeze, which Housing Minster Ariel Attias (Shas) has termed a “waiting period” to encourage the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations with Israel, would not affect private building, PLO committee officials told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency.
It charged that “Israel has often used the pretext that such activities are being pursued by private parties and, therefore, ‘out of the hands’ of the Israeli government. In reality, however, under Israeli administrative and contract laws, the executive branch has the power to release itself from such contractual agreements when their fulfillment is inconsistent with the public interest.”
The unofficial building freeze was headlined this week by the Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot, but the report barely differs from the situation that has existed for several months. The Netanyahu government has not issued any new tenders for building in Judea and Samaria since it took office while projects already underway are continuing without government interference.
The United States has been pressuring Israel to impose a freeze in construction as a way to bring Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table with Israel. American journalists have noted that the U.S. in effect has become Israel’s negotiating partner instead of the PA.
The American government has rejected charges that it is not making demands from the PA, particularly in the area of anti-Israel incitement education. Republican and Democratic members of Congress visiting Israel earlier this month learned to their surprise that PA textbooks continue to teach children that all of Israel is Arab Palestine.
A PA university lecturer recently claimed in an Arab television interview that the Western Wall (Kotel) has no connection with Jewish roots. (The Western Wall is the remnant of the outside wall of the Second Holy Temple in which the Jews of ancient Israel prayed.)
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Britain next weekend. That meeting may be followed by a trilateral meeting with Abbas, Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, to be scheduled for next month at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.