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Settlement freeze dispute threatens direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

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IN PICTURES: Israeli settlements

Mr. Netanyahu has said that continuing the freeze would be politically impossible, causing his coalition to fall apart. Many settlers in the West Bank either opposed the freeze outright, or accepted it as a necessary evil. But an extension could erode any support Netanyahu and his right-wing allies retain from those constituents.

If the moratorium is extended, “there might be an explosion,” says a young yeshiva student in Beit El, where Israeli security forces recently destroyed a small shack built by young protesters, resulting in a violent clash that injured 30. “The state is investing more effort in destroying housing than it is in fighting Hamas.”

The Hamas factor

Indeed Hamas, which issued a strong statement against direct talks this weekend, remains a thorny issue for Israel.

"The Palestinian refusal movements confirm their objection to direct or indirect talks and warn against the dangerous consequences of a policy which undermines national Palestinian rights. Return to direct negotiations is capitulation to the demands of the US and the Zionists, who seek to abolish these rights," said the statement, issued jointly with 10 Palestinian groups based in Damascus, Syria.

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