Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu today ruled out a complete freeze in settlement
activity as demanded by the US and said talks with Washington
were ongoing over how long any halt would last.
"The Palestinians are expecting a complete freeze in
construction and it is clear that this will not happen," a
senior official quoted Netanyahu as telling parliament`s
foreign affairs and defence committee.
Speaking a day before he was to meet US Middle East
peace envoy George Mitchell, the hawkish premier said there
was still no agreement with Washington on how long any halt in
settlement construction would last.
"The reduction of construction will only be
temporary and there is no agreement yet with the Americans on
how long it will last."
Netanyahu also reiterated that building would
continue in Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed
following the 1967 Six Day War in a move not recognised by the
"Jerusalem is not a settlement and construction
there will continue as normal," he said.
Israel sees Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided"
capital, while the Palestinians want to make the annexed
eastern sector the capital of their promised state.
Washington has for months been pressing Israel to
stop settlement activity in the whole of the occupied West
Bank including east Jerusalem in order to jump-start the
stalled peace process.