PLO 'Not Aware' of New Israeli Construction Freeze

Israel has not notified the PLO of any changes to its policy regarding construction in Judea and Samaria, says negotiator Saeb Erekat.

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Elad Benari,

Saeb Erakat
Saeb Erakat

Israel has not notified the PLO of any changes to its policy regarding construction in Judea and Samaria, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

He was responding to a report on Army Radio, which said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had met Housing Minister Uri Ariel and asked him to halt promotion of new projects in Judea and Samaria, including by no longer putting up for bids tenders on new projects.

"We have not been notified of any changes to Israel’s colonial plans, including ongoing construction in dozens of Israeli settlements in the Occupied State of Palestine, including in and around our occupied capital East Jerusalem," Erekat said in a statement quoted by Ma’an.

“What we need are actions and not words," Erekat added. "We monitor Israeli activities on the ground on a daily basis."

Minister Ariel himself used vague wording when asked if the Bayit Yehudi party would vote against the proposed budget if Netanyahu follows through on the reported freeze.

Ariel refused to confirm the report about the freeze, and about a meeting on the subject between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu. "I do not confirm things that I do with the Prime Minister," he told Army Radio. "I cannot respond to that."

When asked about his commitment several weeks ago, to vote against the budget unless construction is allowed to take place throughout Israel, he replied evasively: "I said that if the budget does not reflect construction we will consider our support for the budget. I usually stand behind my word, and I will do so this time, too."

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon indicated on Tuesday that he was not aware of any silent freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria.

"The Prime Minister clearly said that he is willing to negotiate, but without preconditions, and a silent freeze is a precondition,” Danon said.

The PA leadership has imposed endless preconditions for talks with Israel. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas demanded a construction freeze in 2010 and, when Israel complied under pressure by U.S. President Barack Obama, Abbas refused to sit down and negotiate.

Abbas recently told visiting Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel should freeze construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and release terrorist prisoners, especially those arrested before the 1993 Oslo Accords, before any resumption of peace talks.