Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing unrest within his own party today following media reports that he had agreed to accept a “partial freeze” of new settlement activity in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, for a nine month period.
The majority of the MPs in Netanyahu’s Likud Party will attend a major event next week in favor of expanding the settlement activity and to oppose any freeze, no matter how temporary, of the expansion process. Netanyahu had been under considerable international pressure to offer at least something of a freeze in settlement expansion.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said today that he hoped the settlement freeze would be agreed to at some point this month, allowing the stalled peace process to resume. Abbas did not make it clear if he had softened his demand to freeze construction in East Jerusalem, which Netanyahu has insisted he will never agree to.
There has been no movement in the peace process for nearly a year, and several key ministers in the Israeli coalition government have publicly come out against any peace with the Palestinians in principle. Still, Netanyahu is under pressure to make at least some faltering attempt at a deal in the face of Western criticism of his policies.