Sponsor governments of the Middle East peace process called on Israel to extend its settlement moratorium. In a statement released Sept. 21, the Quartet—the US, EU, UN and Russia—called upon Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to extend the 10-month settlement freeze due to expire at the end of September. “The Quartet noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium instituted last November has had a positive impact and urged its continuation,” the statement read.
There was no immediate response from Netanyahu. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting taking place in New York, sources say. It remains unclear when Abbas will next hold talks with Netanyahu. They have held two rounds of direct talks since the negotiations resumed on Sept. 2, after a 20-month hiatus. (AlJazeera, Sept. 22)
The demand for an extension of the settlement freeze was echoed by Arab League chief Amr Mussa. “A viable, serious process of negotiations cannot go at the same time with the settlements that are being built in the occupied territories,” Mussa told a press conference on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting. He insisted Israel must show it is “stopping building settlements,” and that “continuing or prolonging or extending the moratorium is a must and is a symbolic message that the Israeli policy is serious about this.” (Dawn, Sept. 24)
On Sept. 24, member states of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) narrowly rejected an Arab-sponsored resolution calling on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, proving a diplomatic victory for the United States. Washington had urged countries to vote down the non-binding resolution, saying it could derail broader efforts to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East and also send a negative signal to the relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Israel says it will not consider joining the NPT until there is comprehensive Middle East peace.
Forty-six delegations voted in favor of the resolution, 51 against and 23 others abstained in the meeting of the 151-member body. The IAEA approved a similar resolution expressing concern at “Israel’s nuclear capabilities” in a close vote at last year’s General Conference, as the annual IAEA gathering is known.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa criticized the IAEA’s rejection of the new resolution. “There can’t be a situation in which only one country possesses nuclear weapons,” Moussa said at a press conference. “Why does Israel need to be the only one? If Israel maintains its nuclear weapons, the Middle East will slide in the wrong direction and enter an arms race.”
President Shimon Peres welcomed the IAEA vote. “This was another attempt to exploit the international community to make an absurd anti-Israel decision,” Peres said. “This time, Israel’s preparedness and the attitude of the U.S., European Union and other friendly nations thwarted the attempt.” (Ha’aretz, Sept. 24)