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Sunday Aug. 29, 2010 8:20 PM (EST+7)
Israel won't extend settlement freeze ahead of talks

Read more: settlement freeze, direct talks, 10-month settlement moratorium, Benyamin Netanyahu

TEL AVIV, Aug 29 (Reuters/Allyn Fisher-Ilan) - The Israeli cabinet will not vote on extending a partial freeze in West Bank settlement construction before the start of the peace talks in Washington on Sept. 2, a senior cabinet minister told Reuters on Sunday.

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said in an interview that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised him his cabinet would vote on the issue only after the Jewish High Holidays later this month, which fall after the peace summit is held.

He told us today there will be no decision on Sept. 2 about freezing settlements, Shalom said, quoting Netanyahu from a closed door session with ministers earlier on Sunday, adding it would be at least two weeks before the government would vote.

Netanyahu will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time this week at the White House at the invitation US President Barack Obama after months of indirect negotiations.

The Palestinians have said any resumption of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank once a 10-month partial moratorium expires on Sept. 26 would bring an end to the direct talks.

Netanyahu, facing pressure from pro-settler groups in his own government, met other ministers on Sunday to discuss a compromise to permit construction to resume only in several settlement blocs Israel seeks to keep under any peace deal.

Shalom, a veteran member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, said he objected to the idea and rejected the Palestinian call for Israel to extend its settlement freeze ahead of talks was an unacceptable demand.

He said any decision to ultimately extend the settlement freeze may also create a rift that could topple Netanyahu's coalition government and force an early national election.






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