JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be balancing the nation's new housing needs against unnecessarily diverting international attention from the P5+1 talks aimed at reaching a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.
Netanyahu was referring to the continued building in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) where Palestinians want to see a future state. Palestinians have demanded a construction freeze there but Israel says "no." Announcements of new building often raise international criticism.
Instead, at the top of Netanyahu's priorities is convincing the P5+1 -- U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China -- to be much more cautious about lifting economic sanctions before Iran agrees to halt or significantly curb its uranium enrichment program and curtail research at the plutonium facility in Iraq.
On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu urged Housing Minister Uri Ariel to "reconsider all of the steps for evaluating planning potential that he distributed without any advance coordination."
"At this time, the attention of the international community must not be diverted from the main effort -- preventing Iran from receiving an agreement that will allow it to continue its military nuclear program," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said the P.A. would pull out of U.S.-backed talks with Israel over building tenders in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Chief P.A. negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP they planned to appeal to the U.N. Security Council and continue seeking recognition internationally if Israel does not agree to a full construction freeze.