"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.
That was enough for the Palestinians to agree to indirect negotiations. Going forward, Netanyahu’s moderate supporters have suggested that Israel seek a compromise under which it would be allowed to continue building in larger "blocs" of settlements adjacent to Israel proper, while the building moratorium would remain in force in communities deep in the West Bank.
Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian government spokesman, said that the Palestinians will be focusing on Israeli actions – suggesting that a declaration on a moratorium extention may not be crucial.
The main criteria is a practical one,’’ he says. "If [Netanyahu] stops the settlement activities, that is the main indicator he is serious. If he continues to grab the land and expand settlements then he is not serious about ending the occupation.’’