The Palestinian Authority's price for renewing peace talks with Israel was the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons – and only that, said government minister Silvan Shalom. Instead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was prepared to offer them a building freeze in Judea and Samaria – but the PA rejected that offer, Shalom said in an interview on Voice of Israel public radio Sunday.
The building freeze would have encompassed towns that are located outside the so-called “settlement blocs,” such as those in the Binyamin region – among them a number of towns, such as Beit El, that were included in the list of national priority areas issued by the government Sunday. Israel, said Shalom, had no choice but to comply with the demand to release terrorists, because of the heavy American pressure to restart the talks.
Observers said that the fact that the PA rejected Israel's offer for a building freeze did not mean that there would not actually be a freeze. “We know that the PA accepts any Israeli offer as a fait accompli, even if they themselves reject those offers,” said one source. “It's a fact that the PA has demanded the concessions made by Israel in previous negotiations as a starting point for new ones, even if they themselves rejected those concessions.
There's no reason to believe that this situation is any different,” said the source. “That they put some of these towns on a 'national priority list' for housing is fine, but if no building is approved and there is in effect a 'silent freeze,' it's just adding insult to injury to say that these places now have 'priority' over others.”