Palestinians: Netanyahu didn't announce real settlement freeze
Palestinians say nothing new in offer; Rightists on settlement freeze: Netanyahu spitting in our faces.
Palestinians immediately rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement of a 10-month halt in construction in West Bank settlements on Wednesday, blasting the move for not including east Jerusalem.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there was nothing new in Netanyahu's announcement, pointing to the 3,000 new housing units under construction in the West Bank.
"This is not a moratorium," he said. "Unfortunately, we hoped he would commit to a real settlement freeze so we can resume negotiations and he had a choice between settlements and peace and he chose settlements."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters earlier in the day that a settlement freeze was unacceptable without halt in construction in Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a state.
"What has changed to make something that what was not acceptable a week or 10 days ago [acceptable now]?," he told reporters. "The exclusion of Jerusalem is a very serious problem for us."
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu's plan drew a wave of verbal attacks on Wednesday, with right-wingers accusing him of betraying his electoral base.
"It can't be possible that Netanyahu is spitting in the faces of those to whom he promised less than a year ago that he would constitute an alternative to Sharon's policy of uprooting," said MK Yaakov Katz, the chairman of the National Union.
He was referring to former prime minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Riqht-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir accused Netanyahu of betraying the State of Israel.
"The time has for the right to fight Netanyahu the same way they fought Rabin, Olmert, Sharon, and Barak," he said, in reference to former Israeli premiers who were the target of rightist attacks.
Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995 after entering into peace talks with the Palestinians.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), meanwhile, said members of Netanyahu's Likud party had given the premier "the right to lead Israel to disaster."
Ben-Ari added: "Netanyahu's decree of a settlement freeze is a capitulation the likes of which we haven't known since the days of Rabin."
Left and center parties, meanwhile, expressed uncertainty regarding Netanyahu's ability to follow through on the move.
The Kadima party expressed half-hearted support for the plan, saying it "supports every step that will return Israel to negotiations and to a permanent agreement."
Kadima MK Nachman Shai said that Netanyahu has proved time and again that his decisions can be changed, so it's therefore "better to wait and see if he will stick with his decision."
"If he changes his mind, it will be clear that Netanyahu hasn't changed," continued Shai.
Another Kadima MK, Yoel Hasson, praised Netanyahu for "adopting Kadima's policy." He said that Netanyahu was "walking the same road as Sharon."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), meanwhile, applauded Netanyahu's moratorium on settlement activity, saying that it underscores the Jewish State's unyielding commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians and all of its Arab neighbors.
They said the move "provides a deep expression of Israeli confidence in American diplomacy and Israeli dedication to cooperation with the United States in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East."
"As Israel acts to fulfill its Roadmap obligations, the Palestinians must meet their reciprocal obligations, come to the negotiating table, and cease incitement against Israel at home and in international bodies," AIPAC said.