U.S. sources: Israel set to announce 10-month settlement freeze
The Prime Minister's Office is expected to announce Wednesday a 10-month freeze on construction in settlements in the West Bank, sources in the American administration told Haaretz.
The sources said that the freeze will apparently be approved at the cabinet meeting Wednesday afternoon. The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the matter.
The move is not unexpected; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced several days ago that he intended to declare a settlement freeze for 10 months. Israel began building in the West Bank in 1967, following the capture of the territory from Jordan during the Six-Day War. Today, more than a quarter of million Israelis live in West Bank settlements.
The construction freeze will not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which is viewed by Israel as a separate issue to be discussed in a final status agreement with the Palestinians.
The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters Wednesday that a settlement freeze was unacceptable without halt in construction in Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a state.
"What has changed to make something that what was not acceptable a week or 10 days ago [acceptable now]?," he told reporters. "The exclusion of Jerusalem is a very serious problem for us."