Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas raised the volume Saturday in his diplomatic campaign to pressure Israel to extend the building freeze, hours before bulldozers are preparing to mark the end of the moratorium Sunday.
“Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements," Abbas said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly. He added a long list of complaints against Israel, claiming that the IDF has destroyed one-quarter of the homes and Gaza and that its counterterrorist maneuvers have put most Gaza residents out of work.
Signaling a move towards reaching an agreement with Hamas, the rival to his Fatah party, Abbas called for Israel to remove all restrictions on the flow of goods and merchandise into Gaza. The partial embargo, which does not include most commercial goods, is designed to prevent further smuggling of advanced weapons and terrorists for the Hamas terrorist organization, which heads a de facto government in Gaza.
His insistence for Israel’s extending the 10-month building freeze received more support from U.S. President Barack Obama, who told the United Nations, “We believe that the moratorium should be extended.” Trying to prevent a Palestinian Authority walkout on the American attempts to continue direct talks between the PA and Israel, President Obama added. “We also believe that talks should press on until complete."
The government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to play down the end of the moratorium, which nationalists will celebrate on Sunday with several high-profile events where cornerstones will be laid for new homes.
One government official told Reuters that the Prime Minister is in contact with international leaders, who are conducting “intensive efforts to find a mutually agreed compromise to the issue of the moratorium ending.” The official added, "If this is going to work, it must be a two-way street. It also has to be said that the plan for building in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]in the coming year is so modest that in no way would they impact on the parameters for a peace deal."
Cabinet Minister Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party, told TIME magazine that Israel is “going through the motions” even though it is apparent that the Palestinian Authority is not sincere in its claim that it only wants part of what is now Israel.
Begin also pointed out that there is no point in talking with Abbas about a new PA state that includes Gaza, where the Hamas terrorist organization threw Abbas and his Fatah party out of control more than three years ago in a bloody militia war.