Several thousand Jewish settlers and supporters have gathered in the West Bank to mark the end of a 10 month settlement construction moratorium. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged them to act with restraint while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements.CRI's Zhang Xiaoyu reports from Jerusalem.
Israel's 10-month slowdown in West Bank settlement construction has ended over the weekend, threatening to upend the already fragile new round of Middle east peace talks.
Settlers will soon begin building some 2,000 homes across the West Bank for which permits were issued before Israel called a partial building freeze last year.
The head of the Efrat' settlement's local council, Oded Revivi, said questions should be asked about why Palestinian negotiators "didn't take advantage" of the 10-month moratorium and rejoin negotiations earlier.
"They waited until the last moment to start the peace negotiations, and now all of a sudden that has become a preliminary condition for carrying on the talks."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged restraint, a plea that appears aimed at keeping Middle East peace talks alive.
But earlier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting in New York that Israel "must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements."
"Israel must choose between peace and the continuation of settlements. Our demand for the cessation of settlement activities, the lifting of the blockade, and putting an end to illegal Israeli policies and practices do not constitute preconditions that are alien to the peace process."
Under intense pressure from the U.S., Israel agreed in November to curb West Bank settlement construction to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Israel to continue the freeze, but Netanyahu, whose coalition is packed with pro-settler parties, could face the collapse of his government if he complies.
At the same time, the Palestinians, backed by the U.S. and other world powers, want Israel to extend the curbs.
Palestinians say the settlements will make it impossible for them to create a viable state and the issue is one of the core problems standing in the way of any peace deal.
The United States held extensive discussions with Israeli and Palestinian officials over the weekend to try to prevent the collapse of the negotiations.
So far, attempts to find a compromise between the two sides have not achieved any substantial progress.
For CRI, I'm Zhang Xiaoyu from Jerusalem.