ISRAEL SET TO THUMB NOSE AT OBAMA – over settlements

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ISRAELI Prime Minister Netanyahu was yesterday set not to extend the moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank, thumbing his nose at both President Obama and the PA leader, Abbas.

Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders had threatened to withdraw from the peace talks, unless the limited moratorium on new settlement building in the West Bank is renewed.

The 10-month moratorium ran out last night.

The illegal Israeli settlements and Separation Wall are taking more and more land in the Israeli-Occupied Territories away from the Palestinian people.

Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 and all its settlements on the Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law.

But Obama’s administration are worried that any strong pressure from Washington to stop settlement activity would risk alienating the right-wing vote in the mid-term November elections.

PA leader Mahmud Abbas is also showing signs of changing his position on pulling out of the talks.

Abbas was asked by ‘Al Hayat’ newspaper if he would declare an end to the negotiations unless the settlement ‘moratorium’ was extended, but he replied: ‘No, we will go back to the Palestinian institutions, to the Arab follow-up committee.’

At least 20 caravans were installed on a hilltop outside the Revava settlement on Saturday, in the northern West Bank.

The local Palestinian mayor of Deir Istiya said settlers had installed the mobile homes on a hill between his village and the nearby village of Haris overnight, taking over dozens of dunums of farmland in the Wadi Abu Ali area, a valley west of Deir Istiya on land owned by the families of Mansour Othman and Ahmad Ash Sheikh Abdul-Haqq.

The mayor said that platforms for the homes had been constructed using heavy equipment which continued to operate in the area.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was unaware of any new settlement activity, adding that no settler activities for the Sukkot holiday had been coordinated with the military in advance.

According to Israeli group Peace Now, the Revava settlement witnessed the largest rate of growth during the partial ‘moratorium’ period.

In New York last Wednesday, US President Barack Obama called on the Israelis to extend the partial freeze on settlement construction.

The call was followed by a second from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and echoed in the UN General Assembly speech of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement yesterday, urging settlers and their political leaders to ‘show restraint and responsibility today and in the future’.