Netanyahu calls on Jewish settlers to show restrain as construction ban ends
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Jewish settlers and political parties to restrain from acts of provocation amid the expiration of the moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, RIA Novosti reported.
The 10-month moratorium on building Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory expires at 00.01 a.m. on Monday. Tel Aviv has repeatedly said the moratorium is unlikely to be extended. Palestinians threaten to quit direct peace negotiations with Israel if the settlement construction moratorium ends.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on the residents of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and all political players to display restraint and responsibility today and further along the way, exactly as they displayed restraint and responsibility during the 10 months when construction was suspended," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
The prime minister has recently instructed Israeli ministers to refrain from statements about the settlement activities, the Israeli media said.
Jewish settlers plan to mark the expiration of the moratorium with festivities and ceremonies, which will involve demonstration of construction equipment and building machinery.
In case Israel resumes its settlement activities PNA leader Mahmoud Abbas will decide the fate of the Arab-Israeli direct peace talks after consultations with the League of Arab States and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Israeli moratorium "has become a key element in determining Israel's intentions and how committed it is to the success of the negotiations," Abbas said earlier.
Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks came to a halt in December 2008, when Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip in a bid to put an end to the firing of homemade rockets at southern Israel by Palestinian militants based in the enclave. The negotiations resumed in the U.S. on September 2.
The Palestinians have cited ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as the main obstacle to the peace process.
The Palestinian National Authority said it may ask the UN Security Council to reestablish the 1967 border with Israel if direct Mideast talks fall through.
Earlier this week, the Middle East Quartet of negotiators, comprising Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, has also called on Israel to extend the moratorium.