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Palestinians warn Israel peace talks could be quickly derailed

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But the Israeli prime minister is in a bind because he promised right wing allies that he would renew building, so a formal declaration of a new or extended freeze seems unlikely. That does not mean, however, that a surge of new settlement construction is coming at the end of September. Palestinian and Israeli analysts say that Israel could informally pressure settler groups to restrain new construction, or perhaps use the permitting process to do so, in effect meeting the Palestinians half-way.

"It's not about settlements, it’s about what type of good will the sides are [bringing] to the talks,’’ says Mohammed Dajani, a political science professor at Al Quds University. "It’s about what is your goal in entering negotiations: is it to achieve peace, to stall, to please international powers, or win public relations points?’’

While Palestinian officials like lead negotiator Saeb Erekat insist that all new construction is unacceptable, some degree of construction is likely to be tolerated. After all, the Israeli group Peace Now said there were 481 housing starts in the West Bank over the first eight months of the "freeze," though that was far fewer than the 3,500 new units that settler groups say they were adding before the freeze.

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