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1 Sep, 2010 14:44

Israel pledges to resume construction in West Bank

Israeli settlers have stated that they will resume construction works in the Palestinian Autonomy. This comes after four Israelis were killed when gunmen attacked a car near the city of Hebron.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack. He is now in Washington along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for direct talks starting on Thursday.

A freeze on Israeli settlements is one of the main issues on the table. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, is not ambivalent on the issue: the renewed construction automatically puts an end to the talks.

“If the construction resumes in the West Bank settlement, this could be the end of direct talks between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the journalist said. “The deal is very clear. These lands are supposed to go back to the Palestinian Authority, to be part of the independent Palestinian state. If the Israelis continue grabbing lands, obviously Abbas will say, ‘Why should I talk to you?’”

Hamas leaders are not taking part in the negotiations. Yet their actions, even though they have been condemned by the Palestinian government, are still a threat to the peace process.

“Maybe when Hamas carried out these attacks against the Israeli settlements and killing four people near Hebron they wanted to send a message to the Israelis – we have an upper hand here, we can reach our targets and derail the peace process, we can provoke the Israelis for a reaction.”

Hamas government spokesman Taher Al-Nono does not call their attack on the Hebron neighborhood a provocation, but confirms that it is a response to overall Israeli policy.

“We think that Israel is responsible for this incident – for killing any Israeli in the West Bank or in any other territory,” said Al-Nono. Hamas’ stance does not imply any consensus: “There is no choice for Israelis – just to leave.”

As for the peace talks, Hamas does not see any sense in them because these are “negotiations for the sake of negotiations, not for the sake of agreement.”

Shaul Goldstein, mayor of the Gush Etzion regional council, is also pessimistic about the outcome of the talks. According to him, the human rights of Israelis have been constantly violated and he does not see any willingness on the Palestinian side to change the situation.

“I can buy land in Moscow and build a house, I can buy land in New York and build a house – but I can’t buy land in Samaria, which is the cradle of my people, and build a house there,” he said. “You want to transfer the area to another government? Go ahead, this is democracy, but what’s the problem for me to buy a property and build a house?”