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Palestinians reject settlement construction freeze

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian officials blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would suspend new construction in the West Bank.

"Netanyahu’s declaration yesterday doesn’t signal any intention of Israel to go through a genuine and serious peace process because it doesn’t include a serious settlement freeze," Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said at a news conference in Ramallah.

"It was a political manipulation aimed at bypassing the international stand which rejects the settlements and supports the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders," he said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Nov. 26 that the freeze was not valid since it did not include current construction. He said the freeze was an attempt to appease America.

"At the end of the day Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians, he doesn’t need to make peace with Americans," Erekat said in an interview with Army Radio. "If that is what he wants, that is his business. The last I know, Washington is 6,000 miles from Jerusalem, while Jericho is 67."

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians did not accept the freeze since it does not include Jerusalem, which Netanyahu called Israel’s "sovereign capital."

"For the Palestinians and Arabs, Jerusalem is a red line that can’t be crossed," said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, who is traveling with Abbas in Latin America. "We can’t accept any settlement construction freeze that does not include Jerusalem."

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Nov. 26 in an interview with Israel Radio that Israel does not care about the Palestinian reaction to the freeze; rather,  it is more worried about the reaction from "Israel’s friends around the world." He said the ball is now in the Palestinian’s court.

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