‘Independence’ marked amid settlement dispute
JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
An Israeli boy plays with a rifle during a traditional military weapon display to mark the 64th anniversary of Israel’s Independence in the West Bank settlement of Efrat. AFP photoIsrael’s leaders marked their country’s 64th year of independence yesterday with a ceremony in Jerusalem, amid condemnations from Turkey and Russia for its settlement policy.
“Israel does not threaten its region, does not seek to rule another people, and does not wish ill for any other nation,” President Shimon Peres said. Israelis flocked to beaches and thronged parks for barbecues across the nation, filling the air with the scent of grilled meat and charcoal. Government statistics showed that Israel’s population grew by 137,500 since last year to 7,881,000. The Central Bureau of Statistics said 75 percent of the population is Jewish, 21 percent is Arab, with the remainder belonging to tiny minorities or immigrants who are not Jewish.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory are in a violation of international law. “We strongly condemn Israel’s decision to open a tender for new settlements in the Nof Zion and Givat Zeev regions of Eastern Jerusalem and to legitimize settlements in the Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana regions of the West Bank,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Russia also expressed concern over Israel’s decision to legalize three settler outposts.