Arab League rejects partial settlement freeze

The Arab League rebuffed the Israeli decision to temporarily halt new settlement construction in the West Bank for ten months and demanded a permanent freeze of settlement activities.

"We demand that Israel implement a complete freeze on settlement activities in all of the occupied Palestinian lands, whether in the West Bank or Jerusalem, in accordance with international legitimacy and the obligations of the Road Map," said Hisham Youssef, director of the Secretary General’s Office of the Arab League. When asked whether the ball is in the Arab court now, Youssef replied, "This is our position, and we discussed it during the meeting on the Arab Peace Initiative, which resulted in this recommendation which was submitted to Arab foreign ministers. We will approach the United Nations Security Council in this respect."

Meanwhile, Issa Qaraqe, Palestinian minister of prisoners’ affairs said the Palestinian Authority is preparing to receive detainees as part of the prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, known as the "Shalit Deal." The declaration indicates that indirect negotiations have been ongoing between Hamas and Israel, under the auspices of Egypt and Germany. The deal involves the release of 1000 Palestinian prisoners in return for the Israeli soldier. During a visit to the family of a Palestinian prisoner in Bethlehem yesterday, Qarage said, "We are awaiting a deal that is a sharp break from previous Israeli conditions and standards" as any deal must include the release of female captives, Jerusalem detainees, prisoners from 1948 and senior prisoners.

Sources from Hamas and Israel confirm that major advances in indirect negotiations have taken place, although Israel refuses to release 1948 prisoners or those from Jerusalem.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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