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Friday, December 18, 2009

Israel settlement freeze 'tactical move'

Lieberman lashed at Palestinian objections to Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Al-Quds

Israel calls its temporary partial freeze on the West Bank settlement projects a tactical move, vowing to resume the expansions “full force” after the 10-month pause.

"It is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again [in] full force; anyone who understands anything knows this," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at a Thursday meeting with settlers in the West Bank settlement town of Ariel.

Senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, had earlier made similar comments in hopes of placating enraged settlers who fiercely resisted a closure of construction projects in their settlements.

The moratorium came under mounting pressures from the international community and the Palestinian Authority's repeated calls for a halt on the illegal settlement activity on the Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank before a return to peace talks.

The Israeli move, however, failed to turn heads in Palestine as the construction activity is expected to resume as soon as the 10-month freeze is over.

It also allows the construction of synagogues, schools and other community buildings in the settlements while excluding the construction work in the illegally annexed East Jerusalem Al-Quds.

"There will be no more overtures, and we will not make another gesture or quarter gesture. Enough with the theatrics and the mediators," Lieberman said, referring to Tel Aviv's statements in November proclaiming the move was meant to satisfy the Palestinians' demanded halt.

Media reports earlier this week said that Israeli Minister of Interior Elie Yashi would continue planning for settlement expansion and construction for several new housing units across the West Bank.

"The government has vowed to stop building for 10 months but its decision does not include settlement planning," reports cited Yashi as saying.

The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, told the Security Council on Thursday that a partial slowdown on the expansion of West Bank settlements was insufficient and did not meet the Israeli obligations in this regard.

"Particularly as regards East Jerusalem, the policy falls considerably short of Israel's commitments under the Roadmap to freeze all settlement activity, including 'natural growth', and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001," Serry said.

Lieberman, a West Bank settler himself, last week lashed at Palestinian objections to Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Al-Quds, describing them as a pretext for the Arab world to complain.

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