PM to meet seething settlers

2009-12-03 11:14

Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet on Thursday with settler leaders upset over his Cabinet's decision to suspend the construction of new West Bank homes, his office said.

"The prime minister has invited the leaders of settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), to listen to them and to explain the decision that has been taken," an official in his office told AFP.

"There is no going back on the decision to suspend construction," said the official who requested anonymity. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10:30 (08:30 GMT).

Netanyahu announced last week his government would impose a 10-month moratorium on issuing building permits for new West Bank homes in a gesture aimed at persuading the Palestinians to resume peace talks.

The decision, which came after months of US pressure, has infuriated settlers, leading to minor scuffles between them and government inspectors enforcing the moratorium.

It has also been rejected by the Palestinian leadership who are demanding a total freeze of settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a condition for resuming the peace talks.

But Netanyahu's moratorium does not include east Jerusalem or the 3 000 homes already under construction in the West Bank, where more than 300 000 Jews reside, or public buildings including synagogues and schools.

The hawkish prime minister already tried to appease the settlers this week by saying the freeze was "temporary and one-off" and that his government "will resume construction once the suspension is over".