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Mahmoud Abbas gives Israel a week to halt settlement expansion. Does he mean it this time?

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Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

(Read caption) A laborer works on a housing project in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kokhav Hashahar September 28. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday put off a threatened decision to quit peace talks with Israel, leaving more time for diplomacy to save negotiations from collapse over Israel's settlement building.

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About now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is looking like the boy who cried wolf.

Last year, Mr. Abbas said there would be no negotiations with Israel unless all Israeli settlement construction was stopped. In March, he said even so-called "indirect" talks with Israel could not go forward unless an Israeli plan to build more housing for Israeli Jews in East Jerusalem was scrapped.

Early this month, Abbas warned that if a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank was allowed to lapse then just-started negotiations would be called off. And on Sunday, he told members of France's Jewish community in Paris that continuing talks without an immediate halt to settlement expansion would be a "waste of time."

In each case, Abbas and the Palestinians blinked first, returning to the talks they insisted they would avoid. That was largely due to heavy pressure from the US, a key financial backer of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Today, Abbas and Palestinian negotiators insisted that Israel has roughly a week to call off settlement expansion – which rumbled back to life in the West Bank over the weekend – or they'll walk away from talks.


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