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PLO 'not informed' of US proposal on settlement freeze

Oct. 25, 2011 1:15 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 26, 2011 12:51 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- PLO official Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that the US had not officially informed the Palestinian leadership of any proposal to partially freeze settlement building.

The Hebrew-language daily Maariv reported Tuesday that the US had made an offer to the Israeli government and the PA suggesting Israel halt the construction of new neighborhoods but could continue building in existing settlements on occupied Palestinian land, apparently to cope with natural growth.

The US offer included harsh consequences for Israel if the country did decide to build new settlements, Maariv said, including Security Council condemnation.

Maariv said the proposal was an effort to restart direct talks, which have been on hold since the last settlement freeze expired in September 2010.

Erekat told Ma'an that the PLO had not been informed of the reported offer.

"We have become used to Israel's public relations approach. There is nothing called partial settlement construction, nor is there legitimate or illegitimate settlement because all settlement constructions violate international law," he said.

Settlement construction must be completely stopped in all Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, Erekat said, adding that a freeze must be applied to "so-called natural growth" as well.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be willing to partially freeze settlement building if it would bring the PLO back to direct talks.

"We want to hear officially from the Israeli government that they accept to stop settlement on all Palestinian lands, including in Jerusalem and natural growth, and to recognize the 1967 borders," Erekat told AFP in response to the report.

"The Israeli government knows very well how to inform us officially. Until now, no-one has told us anything," he said.

The last round of direct peace negotiations broke down within weeks when Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on settlement construction on occupied land.

The PLO says it cannot negotiate with Israel while it continues to build illegal Jewish-only housing on occupied land which would be a Palestinian state in a two-state solution based on 1967 borders.

The US has repeatedly called on Israel to stop building settlement, and publicly condemns Israeli settlement building.

But in February, the US used its veto at the Security Council to nix a UN resolution condemning settlement building. All other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, which was sponsored by some 130 countries.

The resolution stated that: "Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard."

Washington's veto was the first by President Barack Obama's administration at the United Nations.

Some 500,000 Jews live in settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians in the same territory. All settlements are illegal under international law.
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