Palestinians Issue Varying Statements on Talks

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian Authority negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo is the latest official to announce the PA's intention to walk away from negotiations if Israel doesn't extend the temporary construction freeze in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Rabbo told Palestinian Voice Radio that "an end to construction is needed" to continue the talks, Israel Radio reported on Monday.

Another senior Palestinian official told YNet news the PA would be satisfied with a "quiet freeze," one that would not embarrass the Palestinian Authority.

According to this official, the PA expects Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to deny construction permits to communities other than the major "settlement blocs," which would remain part of Israel in any future agreement.

Bulldozers Roll

Meanwhile, early Monday morning, bulldozers began clearing ground in the city of Ariel, and construction started up in the communities of Ravava, Yakir and Kochav a Hashachar.

On Sunday, 80 buses brought Israelis from across the political spectrum to Revava to celebrate the end of the construction freeze. 

In Kiryat Netafim, residents laid a cornerstone for a new day care center.

"We are laying a cornerstone to protest the injustice caused to 35 babies born this year in Kiryat Netafim," Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said.

"Throughout history, leaders have conspired against the people of Israel, but they live on while [the leaders] have disappeared from the pages of history," Mesika said.

"So we will continue to build and develop the communities despite the opposition of all the oppressors, inside and outside," he said. 

On Tuesday, construction is set to restart in Kedumim, Oranit, Shavei Shomron, Adam, Sha'arei Tikva, Karmei Tzur and Beit Hagai, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

In a related matter, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to improve his standing among his constituency, Israel Radio reported.

Mounir Mansour, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Committee, said all Palestinian prisoners would have to be released before any final peace agreement with Israel.

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