Lieberman: Settlement activity to restart full force in 10 months
Barak: Settlement freeze will be enforced without hesitation; says settlers must obey government decisions.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel's announced 10-month partial moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements was only a tactical move and a temporary one.
"It is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again full force; anyone who understands anything knows this," he told a meeting in the West Bank settlement town of Ariel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the partial moratorium on November 10, in reply to demands by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel halt all settlement activity before suspended peace talks can resume.
But Abbas rejected Netanyahu's announcement, which did not include public buildings or those where construction has already begun, and which also excluded Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.
Lieberman said Thursday night that Israel would make no more overtures to the Palestinian Authority.
"There will be no more overtures, and we will not make another gesture or quarter gesture. Enough with the theatrics and the mediators," he said. "We are prepared for direct negotiations without any conditions or gestures. The ball is in the Palestinians' court."
As Israeli authorities continued to clash with right-wing settlers earlier Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated his commitment to enforcing the government's decision to freeze construction in West Bank settlements.
Last month, the cabinet announced the decision to halt settlement construction for ten months, in efforts to jumpstart peace talks with the Palestinians, who have demanded a complete freeze of construction before talks could resume.
"This is a government decision, and we will enforce it without blinking and without stuttering," Barak said Thursday during a Labor Party meeting in Tel Aviv.
Four right-wing activists were arrested Thursday on suspicion of attacking police officers at the settlement of Talmon, in the northern West Bank, where dozens of residents and rightists had clashed with Civil Administration inspectors and Border Police forces, Israel Radio said.
"It is our duty to protect every citizen everywhere in the state of Israel, including those in settlements in Judea and Samaria. However, it is also our duty to ensure that the state enforces its authority over its citizens and that the government's decisions are carried out," Barak said.
The defense minister added that he expected Israel's citizens "not to stand in the way of law enforcement officials and on-duty civilians."
"I am pleased with the fact that things are being carried out in the proper way, so far," Barak went on to say. "We're not dealing with a simple decision, nor is this an easy reality for people there, but the deep foundation of the state's existence is the ability to carry out the government's decisions."
Barak emphasized how important it was to take advantage of the opportunities for peace, saying that "we understand our utmost duty to prevent the door to negotiations from closing."