JERUSALEM (AP) -- Seeking to reassure Palestinians, Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak pledged Monday to curtail Jewish settlement building initiated by the outgoing hard-line government.
Barak also said on Israel radio he would establish a committee of Cabinet ministers to review settlement projects approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.He hinted he might cancel some of them.
"I don't think anyone supposed that a government led by me would continue the surge of settlement activity on the hills around Nablus," Barak said, referring to a Palestinian city deep in the West Bank.
Barak spokesman David Ziso said Barak was using the Nablus area as an example of all settlement activity under Netanyahu's rule.
Palestinian leaders have demanded a freeze in settlement construction. They have been especially angered by the construction of two Jewish neighborhoods in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem and the grabbing of West Bank hilltops by Jewish settlers.
Barak's pledge to curb settlement expansion was his first public reassurance to the Arabs on the issue since the May 17 election.
"In principle, these are positive signals," said Palestinian legislator Ziad Abu Ziad, but added that the Palestinians were expecting a more detailed position.
Nabil Abourdeneh, an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said Barak's statement was a step toward rebuilding trust eroded during the three years of Netanyahu's government.
But he said the Palestinian Authority was concerned that Barak's policy guidelines did not refer to a complete settlement freeze.
In coalition guidelines published Sunday, Barak made clear that the new government would freeze future settlement building and end tax breaks for settlers in disputed territory. But he left unclear if he would halt projects already under way in the Jerusalem area.
Barak reiterated that his government's top priority would be to revitalize peace talks.