Today, my cabinet authorized a policy of restraint regarding settlements which will include a suspension of new permits and new construction in Judea and Samaria for a period of ten months. My cabinet authorized this far-reaching step because of our deep desire for peace.
We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful peace negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.
We are committed to working closely with the United States to advance peace and security in the region. We have been told by many friends that once Israel takes the first step towards peace, the Palestinians and the Arab world would respond positively with steps of their own to create a virtuous cycle of goodwill. Well, the government of Israel is taking a very big and difficult step toward peace today. I hope that the Palestinians and the Arab world will seize this opportunity to work with us to forge a new beginning and a new future for our children and for their children.
Since the day our government was sworn in eight months ago, we have been calling for direct negotiations with the Palestinians. During that time, we have taken many concrete actions to improve daily life for the Palestinians and to create a climate in which political negotiations would have the best chance to succeed. We have dismantled hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, extended the hours of operation on the Allenby Bridge and removed bureaucratic obstacles to Palestinian economic development.
These actions have helped spur a surge, a boom, in the Palestinian economy. At the same time, the security environment has improved thanks both to the efforts of the IDF and to the efforts of better-trained PA security forces. Now we wish to add to this improved economic and security climate meaningful political negotiations.
I have already said that we will not build new settlements and that we would not expropriate additional land for existing settlements. I said we would also restrain settlement activity, and that's exactly what we decided to do today. I promised to enable normal life to continue for the three hundred thousand Israeli citizens, our brothers and sisters, who live in Judea and Samaria.
That is why this suspension will not affect construction currently underway. It will not include the schools, kindergartens, synagogues and public buildings necessary for the continuation of normal life over the time period of the suspension. Obviously, any infrastructure that may be needed to protect our national security or to safeguard the lives of our citizens will also be provided during this time.
Regarding Jerusalem, our sovereign capital, our position is well known. We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital. As always, we are committed to protect freedom of worship for all faiths and to ensure equal and fair treatment for all the city's residents, Jews and Arabs alike.
When the suspension ends, my government will revert to the policies of previous governments in relation to construction.
I want to say clearly to the Palestinians: Now is the time to begin negotiations. Now is the time to move the peace process forward. There is no more time to waste. Israel has taken a far-reaching step for peace. It's time for the Palestinians to do the same.