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Israel's PM suggests compromise on settlements possible

By the CNN Wire Staff
Jewish settlements, such as the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem, have been a source of strife in the West Bank.
Jewish settlements, such as the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem, have been a source of strife in the West Bank.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Netanyahu under pressure to extend 10-month moratorium on building in West Bank
  • The settlements issue has emerged as a major sticking point in peace negotiations
  • Abbas and Netanyahu are scheduled for a meeting Tuesday in Egypt
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(CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stopped well short of agreeing to a continued freeze on building Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank territory, indicated Sunday he might be willing to compromise.

The settlements issue is a major sticking point between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which recently resumed direct peace talks for the first time since 2008.

"I don't know if there will be a comprehensive freeze," said Netanyahu, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "But I also don't know if it is necessary to construct all of the 20,000 housing units waiting to be built. In any case, between zero and one there are a lot of possibilities," Haaretz reported the prime minister said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

Last year, Israel instituted a 10-month moratorium on building Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu is under pressure from the Palestinians and the from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to extend the freeze, which is currently set to expire toward the end of September.

Netanyahu's conservative coalition government wants the prime minister to end the moratorium.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu met in Washington for direct talks earlier this month. The two pledged in front of the cameras to move the peace process forward, but privately were said to have gotten stuck on the question of whether the Israeli settlements should continue.

Abbas and Netanyahu are scheduled for a meeting Tuesday in Egypt, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, are also expected to attend.

Netanyahu said that if all sides are serious in their efforts, it would be possible to arrive at a framework for lasting peace within the year.

"Just as we are asked to recognize the Palestinian national state ... we also demand and expect the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state, the State of Israel, as the national state of the Jewish People. This is the true foundation of peace," he said.

 
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