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In ad, J Street presses Bibi on freeze

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street in a major newspaper ad blitz called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement growth.

"Israel’s long-term security and its survival as the democratic, national home of the Jewish people depend on the success of these talks," says the ad, which took a full page in The New York Times of Sept. 22 and also appeared in The Wall Street Journal and an array of Jewish weeklies.

The ad by the dovish pro-Israel group called for "leadership, hard decisions and sacrifice from all the parties," and specifically called on the Netanyahu government to "freeze settlement growth."

President Obama on Sept. 23 reiterated his call on Netanyahu to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement building due to expire at midnight Sunday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Jewish leaders this week that he would stay at the talks even if the freeze is not extended, but that it would be "difficult."

Mainstream pro-Israel groups have taken the position that Abbas should focus on reaching a final status agreement within a year, which would put the settlement issue at rest, and have urged him not to use the freeze as an excuse to bolt the negotiations.

A letter now circulating in the U.S. Senate urges Obama to keep the sides at the table and not let interim issues scuttle the talks.

Netanyahu has suggested that a formal extension is unlikely, but there are signs that his government might block some new settlement initiatives.

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