A Palestinian worker at a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Yakir, south of Nablus, 27 Sep 2010
A Palestinian worker at a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Yakir, south of Nablus, 27 Sep 2010

The future of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is uncertain after Israel allowed a freeze on settlement construction to expire.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is delaying a decision on whether to pull out of peace negotiations.

A bulldozer digs at the Revava Jewish settlement Monday in the northern West Bank.  It is a scene that stokes anger among Palestinians and raises questions about whether the talks that started less than a month ago will continue.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to quit negotiations if Israel did not extend the freeze.  Now, his spokesman said the Palestinian leader will announce a decision on whether to remain in talks in early October after consulting with Arab leaders in Cairo.

Israel said it wants the negotiations to continue, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the Palestinians to stay in talks.

It was here at the Revava settlement that hundreds of Israelis gathered Sunday to count down the end of the 10-month freeze that Israel imposed on the building of new-Jewish homes - a gesture meant as a confidence-building measure to bring the Palestinians back to talks.

Nazmi Salman is mayor of the neighboring Palestinian town of Deir Istiya, whose residents say they have lost many hectares of land to the settlers.  Standing on a hillside, watching at a distance as a bulldozer works inside Revava, he said it is difficult to have confidence in the peace process as long as this and other settlements are expanding.  

"Whether this settlement at Revava or other settlements surrounding Deir Istiya and all the Palestinian occupied territories, they are destroying our hope toward a Palestinian independent state," said Salman.  "After 43 years of occupation, you can see that settlements are working day and night [building] on Palestinian land, so nowadays it is very difficult for a Palestinian state to be established here."  

The United States continues diplomatic efforts to get both sides to reach a deal on settlement construction and keep the talks going.  The Israeli's and Palestinian's top negotiators remain in the United States, keeping hope alive that a compromise may still be reached.

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