MIDEAST > Israel holds firm on settlements, world outcry grows

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse

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Bedouins ride donkeys in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem December 3, 2012. Israel will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Monday. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Bedouins ride donkeys in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem December 3, 2012. Israel will not backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Monday. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israel's government on Tuesday stood firm in the face of mounting international pressure as it pushed ahead with a swathe of settlement plans seen as threatening the viability of a future Palestinian state.
Israel showed no sign of changing its stance even as Australia became the latest nation to summon the Israeli ambassador to protest plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in a critical area of the West Bank near Jerusalem.
Late on Monday, Israel -- which is in the middle of an election campaign -- said it would also revive plans for another 1,600 homes in annexed east Jerusalem.
"Are new homes in our capital Jerusalem really more dangerous to the peace process than the Palestinian Authority's refusal to talk peace and to recognise Israel?" tweeted Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel's settlement plans have always raised hackles but Friday's proposals -- seen as payback for the Palestinians securing the UN rank of a non-member state a day earlier -- are considered particularly contentious as such construction would effectively cut the West Bank in half.
The area in question is a corridor of West Bank land called E1 which runs between the easternmost edge of annexed east Jerusalem and the nearby Maaleh Adumim settlement.
Should construction in E1 go ahead, connecting Jerusalem with Maaleh Adumim, it will make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible.
Israeli plans for E1 have been in the works since the early 1990s but have never been implemented due to heavy pressure, largely from the United States.
The international outcry since Friday's move has been intense, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon warning that should Israel build in E1, "it would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution." On Monday, France, Britain, Spain, Denmark and Sweden all summoned the Israeli ambassadors to protest the plans, which also drew criticism from Russia, Germany and Japan.
"The Europeans have removed the kid gloves. We have not seen such an extreme reaction to an Israeli decision in recent years," a senior Israeli diplomat told the top-selling Yediot Aharonot. Other diplomats quoted by the paper were quick to point out that such a coordinated move by so many countries was likely to have been done with the approval of Washington.
"The White House authorised Europe to pounce on the Netanyahu government and to punish it," wrote Yediot columnist Shimon Shiffer.
"It has to do with the Obama administration's recognition that a path has to be found to conclude the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians." Washington has been deeply angered by Netanyahu's decision to move forward construction on E1, which the State Department on Monday described as "particularly sensitive," warning that construction there "would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution." And President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney urged Israel's leadership "to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive." On Tuesday, Australia also summoned the Israeli envoy, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr describing Israel's decision to unfreeze planning in E1 as "especially counter-productive." He also condemned Israel's withholding of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority.
But Israel has showed no sign of bending as Netanyahu ploughs towards general elections in January, which he is expected to easily win. "There will be no change in the decision that has been made," a source in Netanyahu's office said on Monday. Several hours later, an interior ministry spokeswoman confirmed Israel had revived plans for 1,600 new settler homes in Ramat Shlomo, which caused a major diplomatic rift with Washington when it was first announced in March 2010.
Israel has not given details or a timeframe for the new settlement construction, which drew praise from hardline commentators. "History proves that every time we insisted on our positions and were prepared to clash, the West has always capitulated, because justice was ours," wrote Dror Eidar in the Israel HaYom freesheet, which openly backs Netanyahu.
"The 3,000 housing units are a first and very modest step. More will follow. Fear not, Israel."


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Notice on comments

Ken Alden

12/7/2012 3:45:03 PM

@Sandra Jacoel, unfortunatelly you have seen it fit to take a part of a statement out of context, let me try again, No Arab politician will put his name to a document wherein it says; "Heads I win &Tails you loose" Any Peace Treaty has to be equatable and NOT A DOCUMENT OF UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER! As it stands right now, Israeli politicians and military see themselfes as Ceasar, the ruler of the Know World and then some more....Israel, please come down to Earth and joiun the rest of us!

Sandra Jacoel

12/7/2012 3:18:48 PM

TURK DOWN UNDER- Spot on! It was the British who carved up the land and KEN- I can't see a smoke screen here? There weren't defined countries with borders like Europe. Do not know what the term Hebrew means but If the bible is right Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt to Canaan (Israel/Palestine what ever you want to call it) about 5,500 years ago.

Sandra Jacoel

12/7/2012 3:08:24 PM

Wye river- Netanyahu is an idiot and clearly courting the wrong side of Israeli politics. I think Israelis do respect the integrity of the West bank. There are those who don't of course and I think its always the minority who makes the loudest noise. Same with Islamic militants. The fact is you can't and shouldn't generalize. People saying "Evil Zionist Israeli Jews" is the same as saying "All Muslims are terrorists". It's just wrong!

Sandra Jacoel

12/7/2012 2:57:49 PM

KEN. Israels terms for peace are- "recognition for its right to exist and for Hamas to denounce its charter threatening the annihilation of Israel??? If no Arab politician will put his name to such an understandable request then that means no Arab wants peace. How can you have peace when one side wants destruction of the other? Are you saying Israels terms are unreasonable because they want to live in security?

Ken Alden

12/6/2012 4:07:42 PM

RE: Arabs as "NOMADS," is a shameless smoke screen to denay their NATIONHOOD, TE READERS SHOULD KEEK IN MIND THAT THW WORD "hEBREW" literaly means "Wanderer" or a Nomad. In meantime, the AzHar University, founded 970 AD is the place where to all phisicians flocked, to Learn Medicen and arts of Healing. Readers should not forget it was the ME, that Crusaders learned about hygeny and taking a bath and Spices. It was Arab Spain, where the Jews experienced their Golden Years, See Aba Eban Memuars.

Ken Alden

12/6/2012 2:05:57 PM

RE: PEACE IN ME, , one of the most serious attempts was the Wye River Conference in 1998, brokered by the US and personal involvement of then US Pres. Bill Clinton, a consumate politician in his own rights. In this instanse Yasser Arafat would not sign on to it, he stated, "I did't trust Nathenyahu!" Years later Pres. Clinton stated; "Nathanyahu kept changing the Goalposts!" These latest Israeli "Settlements" announcement is one of those, will Israel ever respect the Integreti of West Bank?

Ken Alden

12/6/2012 1:30:16 PM

RE: Arabs opressing Arabs, once I met aRussiam emgree, a former Forced Laborer in Germany during WW2. He was telling me about the opressive conditions in those times. I asked him; how did those times compare to the Soviet Union era? His considred opinion was that it was, 'Just as bad, but they "were ours!" As for Peace in ME, so far Israel insists that it is to be on their Terms, One sided imposed "Peace" will never last and NO Arab politician will put his name to it and accepted as a LEADER!

Turk down under

12/6/2012 2:15:11 AM

cont part3. ROGER Israel hasn't had a days peace as we know it since the start. It is not normal for people growing up under situations like that. I'm not a psychologist but I'm sure it carries may problems to the psyche. The Palestinians have to stop there rhetoric of hate, accept Israel is there to stay so they can have their state and co-exist normally. Israels tit for tat behaviour seems ridiculous but it's not for unfounded reasons. Hamas & the like are the biggest problem

Turk down under

12/6/2012 2:05:54 AM

cont. ROGER. I am not saying that the Palestinians do not have their fair share of suffering or that Israelis are all angels. These lands were carved up by the British and the French. the Arabs never had countries with defined borders like Europe does. the people were generally nomadic and feudal. If an are to blame for the situation today it would have to be the British. The fact is what was was but now they should all get on with it and work it out.

Turk down under

12/6/2012 1:58:25 AM

ROGER. If we're talking percentages all you have to do is look at percentages of Jews in other countries.Take for eg. USA. The largest population of Jews outside israel come in at only 1.7% of the population. On a world scale they barely make up 0.2%- so when you say only 4% resided in Palestine that is actually the largest concentration of Jews than anywhere else in the world today. The Arabs do far more oppressing to the Arabs than the Israelis do to the Arabs
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