Palestinians have always negotiated while settlements were being built....
So, why can't they negotiate now???
Speaking to reporters following his meeting with the UN chief in New York on Thursday, [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak said that, contrary to recent Palestinian claims, settlement building wasn't the real bone of contention between Israel and the PA.
"We aren't building any new settlements," Barak said, indicating that Israel was "committed to the Road Map for Peace and to the two-state solution."
Referring to the possibility that Israel was making it difficult for PA delegates to return to the negotiations table by continuing West Bank building, the defense minster said that claim was an exaggeration, adding that "43 years of construction hardly covers two percent of the West Bank."
"[Former Prime Minster Ehud] Olmert's government was engaged in profound talks with the Palestinians and [settlement] building then was double what it is today and that didn't seem to be an obstacle," Barak said, adding that when he was premier during negotiations with former PA chief Yasser Arafat building was "four times what it is today."
"The problem isn't construction but lowering the level of suspiciousness, building trust and negotiating in a businesslike manner," the defense minister added, saying the sides needed to "get over the obstacle of the unfulfilled second freeze, and engage in talks on final status issues in order to move ahead."