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Erekat: PLO not notified of settlement freeze

May 7, 2013 7:16 P.M. (Updated: May 8, 2013 7:35 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has not notified the PLO of any changes to its settlement activity, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday, as Israeli media reported a new moratorium on settler homes in the West Bank.

"We have not been notified of any changes to Israel’s colonial plans, including ongoing construction in dozens of Israeli settlements in the Occupied State of Palestine, including in and around our occupied capital East Jerusalem," Erekat said in a statement.

Israel's army radio reported Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered a freeze on publishing tenders for new West Bank settler homes to avoid hampering US efforts to renew peace talks.

“What we need are actions and not words," Erekat said in response to the report. "We monitor Israeli activities on the ground on a daily basis."

Neither Netanyahu's office nor the housing ministry would comment on the army radio report, which said the premier had gone back on a pre-election pledge to push ahead with thousands of new settler homes if re-elected.

The radio said the tenders were related to construction in the major settlement blocs which are home to most of the 360,000 Israelis living in the West Bank.

Netanyahu's decision to freeze the tenders was linked to efforts led by US Secretary of State John Kerry to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians, according to the report.

Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now, which opposes settlements, confirmed that the watchdog had seen no evidence of any new tenders published since the start of 2013.

"There have been no new tenders published for settlement construction in the West Bank since the start of the year, and tenders are normally issued every three months," she told AFP.

"This is not a settlement freeze because construction in the settlements is continuing, but you could say it is a show of restraint by Benjamin Netanyahu who does not want to be accused by the Americans of being responsible for the failure of their efforts to restart negotiations with the Palestinians."

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