The Palestinians have rejected Israel’s assertion that it would halt construction for 10 months in the West Bank as this decision did not apply to on-going projects in the occupied territory.

Israel would also not cease construction activity in East Jerusalem, which is also under occupation, and which, the Palestinians view as the capital of their future independent State.

“What [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu announced today is one of his biggest attempts at deception in his history,” senior Palestinian law maker Mustafa Barghouti said.

“In reality he will continue settlement construction in the same pace as before.”

He said in a statement that the exclusion of Jerusalem and 3,000 under-construction housing units was “completely unacceptable”.

Far-reaching

Earlier, Mr. Netanyahu, in a televised address said that the Israeli security Cabinet had taken the “far-reaching” step of suspending “new permits and new construction in [the West Bank] for a period of 10 months”. He clarified that the curbs would be only applicable to construction of new homes.

“We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life,” he observed.

Mr. Netanyahu emphasised that the latest Israeli position was not applicable to Jerusalem.

“We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital,” he said.

The Palestinians have so far rejected resumption of stalled talks with the Israelis, unless Israel agreed to freeze all settlement activity in areas that it has occupied during the 1967 Arab Israeli war.

Washington’s West Asia envoy, George Mitchell said that Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement did not mean that Israel had decided to freeze settlements. However, the move was “significant” and could have “a substantial impact on the ground”.

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