Palestinian workers build new Israeli housing in the Giv'at Ze'ev Settlement outside Jerusalem, September 21, 2010. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said negotiations with the Israelis will stop if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not extend the 10-month West Bank settlement construction freeze which expires September 26. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo
JERUSALEM, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Settler leaders called on Israel's prime minister to approve new building tenders in West Bank settlements and not extend a building freeze, officials said.
A statement issued by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza lashed out at Binyamin Netanyahu, who in an address before the Knesset Monday, offered the Palestinian Authority an extension of a building freeze in the settlements in exchange for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
"Israel must not extend the freeze under any circumstances. The settlement enterprise is the source of Israel's strength and we cannot allow it to be held hostage by (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas. Continuing the construction moratorium is a trap, after which Netanyahu will be placed in a political slaughterhouse with nothing left of his credibility," a council statement said.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the P.A. "forcefully rejects all these Israeli games. The racist demands of Netanyahu cannot be tied to the request to cease building in the settlements for the purpose of establishing a state," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said construction should be frozen if peace talks are to progress.
"As for the issue of Israel's Jewishness, we have nothing to do with this matter," the English language daily quoted him saying. "This is the Palestinian position on the basis of which the peace process was launched."
"Our position on settlements is well known," a U.S. State Department official said, when asked by Haaretz for a response to Netanyahu's Knesset speech. "As we've noted we would like to see the settlement moratorium extended. Beyond that, we are not going to get into the substance of our discussions with the parties ... . U.S. policy has been consistent. Both President Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton are committed to Israel's democracy as a Jewish state."