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Palestinians Say No Talks until Israel Stops Settlements

  • Robert Berger

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting with the leading members of the PLO in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 02 Oct 2010

Middle East peace talks remain in crisis after a decision by the Palestinian leadership.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gathered leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the West Bank to discuss Israel's decision to end a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction. The meeting ended with an ultimatum.

Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said that peace talks cannot resume until Israel freezes all settlement activity. The statement accused Israel of obstructing negotiations that began last month after a 20-month break.

The talks were thrown into crisis after Israel ended the building freeze a week ago. U.S. envoy George Mitchell spent four days shuttling between Jerusalem and the West Bank this week, but failed to convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium. Mr. Netanyahu is under pressure from his hawkish coalition partners to keep building.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says the only place to address such disagreements is at the negotiating table.

"The moratorium was designed as a confidence building measure to get the talks going," said Regev. "And the talks have started, and all the sensitive issues including the issue of settlement are on the agenda in these talks."

The Arab League is due to meet in Libya on Friday to make a final decision on whether the Palestinians should quit the peace talks. Until then, the United States will continue efforts to hammer out a compromise.