I don't blame the Palestinians for this. In what good faith can one negotiate with a nation which is breaking international law even as you are attempting to reason with them and work out a peace deal?
The Palestinian leadership confirmed yesterday that it would not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, amid determined but increasingly frustrated efforts by the Americans to keep the talks alive.
The executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation met in Ramallah to consider its position following the end of the moratorium last weekend. Palestinian negotiators have said repeatedly that they would not stay at the negotiating table unless the freeze were extended, and that Israel must choose between settlements and peace.
"The leadership confirms that the resumption of talks requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official, speaking after the meeting. "The Palestinian leadership holds Israel responsible for obstructing the negotiations."
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said efforts had reached "a dead end". "There will be no negotiations in the shadow of continued settlement," Abu Rdainah said. "All the while Israel is not convinced that the political process be based on international law and justice, matters will remain in a state of paralysis for a long time."
Netanyahu has shown the kind of arrogance which has typified his entire career when he insisted that his refusal to extend the settlement freeze should not endanger the talks.
This is a disingenuous complaint. The fact that Israel continued to build during previous negotiations shows only that the Palestinians should never have agreed to do this in the past. There are some who believe that Israel will always negotiate whilst building, as eventually there will be nothing to negotiate about, as Israel will have seized all Palestinian land.
While giving no hint that Israel would bow to Palestinian demands, Netanyahu said he believed a "creative" solution could still resolve the impasse and keep talks alive.
"Just a month ago the Palestinians entered direct peace talks with no preconditions after my government made a range of gestures to push forward the dialogue," he said.
"Before that, over 17 years, the Palestinians conducted a direct dialogue with Israeli governments, while building in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] continued, including during the final year of the previous administration."
Settlement building has been slower under Netanyahu's current administration than under any Israeli government since the mid-1970s.
Netanyahu added: "I hope that now they will not turn their backs on peace and continue talks to reach a deal within a year."
Israel cannot be considered serious about peace whilst she continues to steal Palestinian land and flout international law.
This is how insane Israeli politics have become under Netanyahu. He wishes to blame the Palestinians for reacting to the fact that he is breaking international law.
The Israelis are now attempting to deflect blame for the expected breakdown of talks on to the Palestinians. "Now I expect the Palestinians to show some flexibility," Netanyahu was quoted as saying at the end of last week. "Everyone knows that measured and restrained building in Judaea and Samaria [the West Bank] in the coming year will have no influence on the peace map."
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