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Palestinians Reject Netanyahu Offer On Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at a meeting in Egypt in mid-September
Israel's prime minister has proposed a Jewish settlements freeze in the West Bank in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland, but the proposal has been rejected by the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been under international pressure to renew an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction in order to revive U.S.-mediated peace talks with the Palestinians.

"If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said in the Israeli parliament, "I will be ready to convene my government and request a further suspension."

But the offer was immediately rejected by the Palestinians. Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian National Authority President Mahmud Abbas, said the issue was completely unrelated to the crisis in the peace talks.

"What [Netanyahu] is saying has nothing to do with negotiations. We are not in any way going to get involved with such a discussion," Rdainah said. "Our position is clear. We recognize the state of Israel and there should be a complete freeze of settlement activities. And that is not just the Palestinian position, it is the Arab position."

Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks under U.S. mediation were launched in Washington in early September. But the future of the negotiations has been thrown into doubt over the refusal of the Palestinians to continue if Israel does not extend its settlement freeze on West Bank land the Palestinians hope to include in a new independent Palestinian state.

compiled from agency reports