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West Bank settlers reject Netanyahu plea for support

Benjamin Netanyahu [File pic]
Benjamin Netanyahu said building could resume after 10 months

Jewish settlers have rejected an attempt by the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to defuse tensions over a pause in building in the West Bank.

They vowed to continue a civil disobedience campaign stopping inspectors from entering settlements, now in its third day.

Speaking on Israeli radio, settlers described the meeting with PM as "difficult and emotionally charged".

The settlers have scheduled a mass demonstration next week in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have refused to resume peace talks with Israel unless it completely halts all settlement construction, and has complained that the suspension does not go far enough.

Mr Netanyahu declared last week that Israel would restrict residential building in the West Bank for 10 months, but settlers vowed to defy the policy.

Settlers protesting at Kedumim in West Bank
Settlers have vowed to ignore the building work suspension

There has so far been no violence as inspectors tried to enter settlements to enforce the policy this week, but 13 people have been arrested.

At a two-hour meeting with settler leaders on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, Mr Netanyahu promised that building work could resume after the 10-month lull.

"You may demonstrate, protest and express your opinions, but it cannot be that you will not abide by decisions which have been made according to law," he said.

"Nothing came out of the meeting," settler leader Pinhas Walerstein told AFP, adding that he did not believe building would resume in 10 months' time.

Another leader, Danny Dayan, told Israel radio the settlers would continue to oppose the building restrictions.

Earlier, Defence Minister Ehud Barak eased rules on the procedure for granting permission for minor repairs and improvements to existing houses.

The Israeli state also said in a submission to the High Court of Justice that its ability to remove outposts - settlements illegal even under Israeli law - might be reduced because of the resources required to enforce the building curbs.

Palestinians say the new building restrictions do not go far enough, particularly because they do not include East Jerusalem.

About half a million Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied since 1967 and the Palestinians claim for a future state.

The settlements are illegal under international law.



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