Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says succumbing to international pressures to maintain a 10 month settlement freeze could overthrow his cabinet.
In November, Netanyahu announced a partial, 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement expansions to relieve mounting criticism directed at Tel Aviv over hindering the resumption of Middle East peace talks.
Meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday in al-Quds (Jerusalem), Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos highlighted that the European Union’s position was that Israel should continue the freeze.
But Netanyahu was afraid that continuing the freeze after September 26 would be impossible politically and would bring down the coalition, Haaretz quoted the Israeli premier as saying on its website.
The Palestinian Authority is demanding a permanent halt on illegal construction in the occupied West Bank as a precondition to upgrade talks with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Arab League foreign ministers are to meet on Thursday in Cairo, where they will decide whether or not the Palestinians should heed the US calls for a shift from the ongoing indirect "proximity talks" to direct negotiations.
A subcommittee on the Arab peace initiative is expected to announce its continued support for a decision by acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas not to begin direct talks with Israel until agreements are reached on major issues of dispute.
Abbas earlier voiced criticism against Washington for its "unclear position" and a lack of assurances for Israel’s return to the 1967 borders and an end to settlement expansions in the West Bank, especially in East al-Quds — which Palestinians deem as the capital of their future Palestinian state.
During yesterday’s meeting Netanyahu reportedly told Moratinos that the Palestinian conditions for resuming the stalled direct talks were "unrealistic," and that only after a final-status agreement is reached will it be possible to scrape sufficient public support in Israel to push it through.
Trying to do so now would bring down the ruling coalition in Tel Aviv and damage the peace process, he warned.