The Yesha Council – a union of of Judea and Samaria local authority heads – attacked the Palestinian Authority Saturday night for its insistence that Israel continue the freeze on construction by Jews in Judea and Samaria, as a condition for continuing peace negotiations.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said that PA boss Mahmoud Abbas's behavior is “what the police refer to as extortion.” It is well known, he said, that “the way to deal with blackmail is not appease the blackmailer, but to reject his demands – otherwise the blackmail is perpetuated."
Abbas, Dayan said, was “waving an unloaded gun” because negotiations are more in the PA's interest than in Israel's. Therefore, he called out to Abbas, “if you want to leave [the talks] – go ahead and leave.” Abbas, he said, is crying “hold me back!” but Israel should not be overly concerned over this.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak reacted to the PLO and PA statements by calling on “the Palestinian leadership and all sides" to "show responsibility and not to allow the talks to be broken off.” The diplomatic process, Barak's bureau stated, is essential to the future of the region and “a peace agreement with security is the hope of millions of citizens throughout the Middle East.”
Barak expressed his confidence that through intensive talks between Israel, the US, the PA and leaders on the Arab world, “it will be possible to reach a formula in the course of the week, that will make it possible to continue direct negotiations.”
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called on the Judea and Samaria local authority heads to “assist the Prime Minister in finding a solution to the issue of freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.”
Judea and Samaria heads “should support and back the Prime Minister in finding a compromise between Israel's national interest in continuing peace talks and the interests of the settlers in general and the settlement blocs in particular,” Schneller said. He suggested that a decision regarding future construction projects be put off for “a few weeks” and explained that "ensuring the interests of the settlements depends on the flexibility of their representatives."