GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The escalation of settlement building in the West Bank indicates Israel's intention to use negotiations as a cover to Judaize Palestinian land, Hamas said Monday.
Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called on President Mahmoud Abbas to make a swift decision to withdraw from the peace talks, which relaunched less than a month earlier in Washington.
Bulldozers arrived in the West Bank to resume full-scale settlement expansion on Monday following the expiry of the 10-month partial moratorium on building. Israel's Channel 2 said construction would begin in at least eight illegal West Bank settlements.
Israeli advoacy group Stand With Us issued a statement Monday insisting construction "within current boundaries" was not an obstacle to peace, saying Israel had offered land swaps to compensate for land confiscation. The group said the "serious obstacles to peace" were divided Palestinian leadership, the Palestinian Authority's refusal to accept Jewish nationalism and Hamas' commitment to terrorism.
Israel should focus on "getting the PA and Israel to stay at the negotiating table," in the interests of peaceful coexistence, the organization said.
The Hamas official said the Israeli government was trying to convince Abbas to stay in negotiations in order to make him agree to Israeli demands. The Palestinian national consensus, Barhoum added, rejected the process of negotiations.
Last-minute efforts on Friday by US President Barack Obama to persuade Israel to extend the freeze were rejected by Netanyahu, who cited "internal political considerations, as most cabinet members were against such a move," the Israeli news site Ynet reported.
Abbas said he would withdraw talks if settlement building resumed on land which would be a Palestinian state under a peace agreement.
The president is scheduled to meet with leaders at an Arab League summit on 4 October to discuss the future of negotiations in light of Israel's settlement activity.