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Israel Says Settlement Freeze Proves it Wants Peace

Palestinian officials say the Israeli move is insufficient because it does not include disputed East Jerusalem or 3,000 homes already under construction in the West Bank

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Israel is blaming the Palestinians for the failure to revive U.S.-sponsored peace talks.  An Israeli concession on West Bank settlements is not enough for the Palestinians and too much for Jewish settlers. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his decision to freeze construction in West Bank settlements for 10 months is proof that Israel wants peace.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu said the Palestinians' rejection of his offer shows they are an obstacle to the peace process.

The Palestinians say the Israeli move is insufficient because it does not include disputed East Jerusalem or 3,000 homes already under construction in the West Bank.  The Palestinians claim the West Bank and East Jerusalem as territory for a future state, and they have conditioned a resumption of peace talks on a halt to all Israeli construction in those areas.

Mr. Netanyahu imposed the construction freeze under pressure from the United States, which sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.  But the move has angered Jewish settlers and their supporters who helped bring Mr. Netanyahu to power.  He sought to reassure the settlers and his right-wing coalition partners, saying the measure is temporary.

The Prime Minister said the settlement freeze is limited and building in the West Bank will resume after 10 months, even if peace talks resume.

But that did not appease the settlers who accuse Mr. Netanyahu of betrayal.  Residents of the West Bank settlement of Kedumim threw eggs at inspectors and clashed with police who came to enforce the construction freeze.

Kedumim council leader Hananel Durani told Israel Radio the settlers will not cooperate with the authorities.

He said the Israeli government is strangling the settlements and residents have a legitimate right to resist.

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