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‘We won’t renew settlement freeze to lure PA to talks’

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Israel will not declare a new settlement freeze to get the Palestinians to agree to the Quartet’s formula for a renewal of talks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“We already gave at the office,” Netanyahu said, referring to the 10- month settlement freeze he initiated in November 2008 that did not succeed in enticing the Palestinians back to talks.

Netanyahu, in a Rosh Hashana interview with the Post – just hours after returning from his five-day trip to the US, where he battled against the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN – said that by coming back to the issue of the settlement freeze, the Palestinians were indicating that they didn’t really want to negotiate.

“It is a pretext they use again and again, but I think a lot of people see it as a ruse to avoid direct negotiations,” he said.

Netanyahu said he had no intention of intervening with the Interior Ministry’s District Planning Committee that is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the construction of more than 700 housing units in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, located over the Green Line, even though the Quartet – in its statement Friday – called on “the parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective,” a veiled reference to construction beyond the pre-1967 lines.

“I don’t think there is anything new,” Netanyahu said of the plan.

“We plan in Jerusalem. We build in Jerusalem. Period. The same way Israeli governments have been doing for years – since the end of the 1967 war.

“We build in Jewish neighborhoods, the Arabs build in Arab neighborhoods – that is the way the life of this city goes on and develops for its Jewish and non- Jewish residents alike.”

Netanyahu said Americans “know this; they have followed this a long time. There is really nothing new.”

Responding to criticism that his speech Friday to the UN – while an articulate explanation of Israel’s position and fears – did not provide any hope for solving the conflict, Netanyahu said, “The hope we have is standing on the principles that served us well, not only through the life of the state, but even through the whole course of Zionism. Throughout our history.”

“You can’t build hope on the foundation of lies,” he continued, adding that the Palestinians’ inability to utter the words “the Jewish people” or “the Jewish state” is not something that can be glossed over.

“There is a problem there, and you can’t build hope by shutting your eyes and saying it doesn’t matter,” Netanyahu said.

“Of course it matters – this is what this conflict is all about. It is not about the settlements; it is about the Jewish state. And it must be said over and over again.”

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