Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bluntly told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday there will be no new construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.
Ban asked Israel earlier in the day to reinstate the freeze on all construction in Jewish communities in the region, saying at a news conference it was "not helpful" to the peace process.
But Netanyahu noted out that any discussion about a freeze on construction -- or any other action taken by Israel to move the peace process forward -- should come in context of the process itself, rather than as a precondition.
"This issue is part of the negotiations," he told Ban. "It can't be a precondition."
Netanyahu added pointedly that "settlements are not the crux of the conflict, but rather, one of its outcomes. The conflict started 50 years before there were settlements."
In addition to his meeting in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, Ban met with President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is also set to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as well as Opposition leader and Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni, prior to leaving the region.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Tuesday in Jordan with King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Ban urged Netanyahu to revive a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria as a "goodwill gesture" to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, Ban urged Israel to submit its own proposals for borders and security arrangements to PA/PLO officials.
"Of course, it would also be required that PA authorities come to dialogue," Ban said, clearly hoping that the Fatah leader, who also heads the PLO, would be enticed to return to talks by a new freeze.
Netanyahu promised Israelis after a 10-month construction freeze which resulted in nothing but a handful of photo ops that he would not allow Israel to be forced into another one.
During that time, Jews living even 15 minutes from the capital were unable to pave a driveway to their homes, add a pergola to shade a front porch in summer, or make simple repairs to existing structures. Buildings in progress were unable to be completed, schools could not add classrooms and homes that had been started were forced to be abandoned -- throwing many families' financial affairs into total chaos.
Ban is scheduled to visit Gaza Thursday before stopping at Sapir College, near Sderot -- an area repeatedly peppered by Qassam rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists. He will then travel to Herzliya to deliver the keynote address at the IDC Herzliya Conference.