No talks without freeze on colonies: Abbas

The Palestinian president warned that he would not accept a US proposal for resuming peace talks unless Israel stops building homes in disputed east Jerusalem.

By (AP)

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Published: Mon 22 Nov 2010, 1:06 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

Mahmoud Abbas’ position complicated already troubled American efforts to restart peace talks. Israeli hard-liners say they won’t accept the proposed 90-day moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank if it also includes east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians say there can’t be peace talks if Israel continues to build homes in captured territories where they want to establish an independent state. In Cairo on Sunday, Abbas said any construction freeze must include east Jerusalem ‘first and foremost.’

‘If the moratorium does not apply to all Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, we will not accept it,’ Abbas said after consultations with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday that he would bring the issue of a renewed slowdown before his Cabinet only after the US lays out the details in writing. Then, he said, ‘I am sure my fellow ministers will approve it, because this is what is good for Israel.’

Netanyahu did not mention Jerusalem in his statement. He also denied reports that a central aim of the proposed 90-day settlement slowdown was for both sides to agree on final borders between Israel and a future Palestine during that period. With borders determined, Israel could then resume building on any territories it would expect to keep under a final peace deal, defusing the settlement issue.

‘There is no such request and there is no such commitment,’ Netanyahu said in the statement.

The US has been pushing Israel to impose a new moratorium to draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table. As an incentive, Washington has offered Israel a fleet of next-generation stealth warplanes and promises to veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.

But the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which holds the swing votes in the inner Cabinet that is to vote on the moratorium, has demanded a written assurance from the US that construction in east Jerusalem would not be affected.

Also Sunday, an Israeli military court handed down a three-month suspended prison sentence to two soldiers convicted of using a 9-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during last year’s Gaza Strip war. The soldiers were also demoted.

The court said the soldiers asked the boy to open bags in a building they took over, fearing explosives were inside.

The soldiers’ conviction last month was the most serious in connection with the war. The sentence appeared light; the soldiers had faced up to three years in prison.

International rights groups have accused Israel of failing to properly investigate alleged wrongdoing by troops during the three-week military operation. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to Palestinian figures and international human rights groups.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for a future independent state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian government in the West Bank broke down weeks after they began with the expiry of an earlier, 10-month building slowdown in the West Bank.

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