RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas expressed optimism on Thursday that Washington would convince Israel to renew a settlement building ban and end a peace talks deadlock.
“Why not hope that the US administration will convince Israel to stop settlement activities,” he told reporters at a joint news conference with visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel and the Palestinians began face-to-face negotiations six weeks ago, but the talks look set to collapse following the end of an Israeli ban on settlement building which expired on September 26.
Israel has refused to reimpose the moratorium, while the Palestinians say they will not talk while settlers build on occupied Palestinian land, prompting a flurry of US diplomatic efforts to resolve the deadlock.
“Let’s focus on hope and not failure,” Abbas said. “If the US efforts do yield progress, we will be ready to resume the talks immediately.”
The Palestinians see the settlements as a major threat to the establishment of a viable future state in the occupied West Bank, and they view a freezing of settlement activity as a crucial test of Israel’s intentions.
“What we demand is not a big deal — it’s only the settlement issue, which constitutes an illegitimate action being taken on the ground,” Abbas said of the settlements which are considered illegal by the international community.
On Monday the Palestinians rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” in return for a possible settlement halt.