Netanyahu: Israel will resume West Bank building in 8 months
PM to coalition: Israel wants 'negotiations without negotiation'; says won't free 'terror icons' for Shalit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reminded coalition members that Israel's freeze on construction in West Bank settlements was only temporary, saying: "In another eight months, we'll start building again."
Netanyahu also told the ministers that Israel was interested in seeing peace talks with the Palestinians begin as soon as possible. "We want to renew negotiations without negotiations," he said.
Under pressure from the Obama administration, Netanyahu imposed a limited, 10-month moratorium on November 25 on housing starts in West Bank settlements, saying he hoped the move would help restart negotiations suspended for the past year.
But he excluded East Jerusalem and nearby annexed areas of the West Bank, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not budged from his demand for a complete settlement freeze before talks can resume.
Nabil Abu Rdeinah, a spokesman for Abbas, on Sunday rejected Netanyahu's accusations Palestinians were to blame for a lack of progress toward a statehood deal.
"Israel continues settlement building in violation of the road map," Abu Rdainah said.
At the meeting with his coalition members on Sunday, the prime minister also declared Israel would not free "terrorist icons" as part of a prisoner exchange deal now being discussed with Hamas to see the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
He added that Israel would stand firm on its pledge to see some of the terrorists set for released exiled away from the West Bank.
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu told a weekly cabinet session that 20 mortar bombs and rockets had been fired at Israel from the Hamas-ruled territory last week, adding:
"I view this very seriously. The government's policy is clear, any shooting at our territory will receive an immediate and powerful response."
Netanyahu told his cabinet Israel had targeted factories where rockets were manufactured and tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt, where he charged "Iran smuggles in missiles and rockets" into Gaza, naming an arch-foe Israel accuses of arming militants.
His remarks came after two Palestinians were killed on the Gaza border. The IDF denied involvement in that incident.
A short time later, four mortar shells fired from Gaza exploded in the Western Negev.