STEVE INSKEEP, host:
When the peace process moves forward, events on the ground have a way of interfering, so people will be closely watching developments this week.
On the West Bank yesterday, Jewish settlers broke ground on new construction projects. They are building in defiance of a ban imposed by the Israeli government. Settler groups say the move was in response to a Palestinian shooting that killed four West Bank settlers on Tuesday. The settlers and their supporters have been pushing for their government to allow more settlement building. Palestinians say if that happens they will walk out of the peace talks.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro reports from Jerusalem.
LOURDES GARCIA NAVARRO: Yitzach and Talia Imas were buried at the Jewish cemetery atop the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. The couple and two other Israelis were killed when their car was sprayed with bullets near the settlement of Kiriyat Arba. The armed wing of the militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
(Soundbite of weeping)
Unidentified Female: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of their children sobbed at the ceremony, remembering her mother and father as devoted partners and parents. But personal pain was quickly transformed into political rhetoric by the other speakers, among them a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's own party, Likud. MP Ayoob Kara said the killings only show that Netanyahu's policy of what he calls appeasing the Palestinians isn't working.
Mr. AYOOB KARA (Israeli Knesset Member): (Through translator) How many sacrifices can we make until everyone understands the truth? We don't need to give back territory because of a Nobel Prize or a photo op on the White House lawn. Is this the policy we should be pushing?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The main settler organizations quickly capitalized on the outrage the killings provoked by unilaterally announcing an end to the so-called settlement freeze that's been in effect for almost 10 months. In the settlement of Adam near Ramallah, diggers and other heavy equipment leveled ground for a new sports center, while children waved Israeli flags.
Naftali Bennet is the director general of the Yesha Council, one of the main settler organizations.
Mr. NAFTALI BENNET (Director General, Yesha Council): What's going on in Washington is a farce. This is not peace, it's talking with terrorists that are determined to erase us from the Earth. We're determined to stop that and there's only way to do that, and that's to build. There's only one language they understand, and that's strength and growth. And that's what we are going to do. We're going to grow strong.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Up until now, Netanyahu has managed a balancing act, keeping together his largely right-wing coalition - many of whom support settlements -while moving forward with the peace talks. They don't want to see him back down on the issue of settlements. Palestinian leaders, though, say they will walk out of the talks unless the settlement freeze is extended after September 26th.
They may have no choice. There is immense pressure on them from the Palestinian public, which has little appetite for the peace talks. Even members of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party are skeptical the negotiations can succeed.
And on the ground in the villages and towns of the West Bank, many of which are encircled by settlements, Palestinians say they want Abbas, who is also called Abu Mazen, to stand firm on the issue of Jewish building in the West Bank. Mohammed Jamil Ibrahim is the mayor of the village of Turmus Ayya.
Mr. MOHAMMED JAMIL IBRAHIM (Mayor, Turmus Ayya): (Through translator) I support Abu Mazen totally. I am a Fatah supporter. I support negotiations because without negotiations we are going to get nothing. However, in my view these negotiations will not succeed. As long as Israel plans to continue building on confiscated land, there is no way that there will be success in these negotiations.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Analysts say how Israelis and Palestinians will resolve this issue is not yet clear.
Professor REUVAN HAZAN (Hebrew University): Probably a fudge. It is unlikely that we will remain with a complete freeze because politically that is difficult for Netanyahu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Reuvan Hazan is a professor of political science at Hebrew University.
Prof. HAZAN: On the other hand, the ending of the settlement freeze three weeks after the beginning of negotiations, if it is ended massively, then this will be a public relations fiasco for Israel. So somewhere in the middle, a little bit of building, not in contentious places, more or less keep everybody a little unhappy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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