Pressure to continue the West Bank building freeze is being felt ahead of direct talks. About a hundred members of Peace Now protested on Thursday at a junction near the West Bank settlement of Talmon.
The protesters called upon Israel to build a peace without settlements, claiming that should settlement construction in the West Bank resume at the end of next month, it will lead to a situation in which it will no longer be possible to separate between Israel and a Palestinian state, thus necessitating the establishment of a bi-national state.
Peace Now rally. Bolstering Netanyahu? (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Large police forces secured the protesters, who carried signs reading "Two states for two peoples."
Knesset Member Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) who arrived on the site said, "The protest is meant to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his mission next week in the US. This is a rally of reinforcement; it is not meant to weaken him."
According to Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron, "We came here to say don't play games with our fate. Continue the building freeze and enter serious negotiations towards two states for two peoples and the acceptance of the '67 borders as a territorial compromise. No posturing towards Obama justifies endangering direct talks between us the Palestinians."
Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer. 'Prioritize national interest' (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Just before the prime minister leaves for Washington for the launch of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Jerusalem continues to look for a creative solution to the issue of the West Bank settlement construction moratorium that will expire on September 26.
As the date draws near, pressure on Netanyahu is mounting. His associates said at the beginning of the week that the matter will be discussed in the seven-minister forum and that Netanyahu understands the "high risks" it entails.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said, "Whoever thinks that it's possible to impose a partial freeze is wrong and misleading. The moment the dates on the freeze orders expire, even construction in the solitary settlements will renew automatically. Netanyahu needs to prioritize the national interest and not capitulate to a few thousand settlers and the extreme right in the Knesset."
Oppenheimer thus rejected the offer made by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor to continue building in the large settlement blocks after the moratorium expires while continuing the freeze in the solitary settlements.
Washington recently confirmed ongoing talks regarding the continuation of the freeze, but noted that no decision has yet to be made. State Department Spokesperson Philip Crowley said that the issue will be discussed in the first work meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, noting that he does not believe the issue can be solved outside the framework of negotiations.
The Palestinians emphasized that they will not continue negotiations if construction is renewed after September 26.
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