Israel dismisses global criticism over new settlements

Israel has dismissed worldwide criticisms over its plan to build 1,300 new homes in east Jerusalem.

Jerusalem: Israel has dismissed worldwide
criticisms over its plan to build 1,300 new homes in east
Jerusalem, emphasising that the Holy city is its capital and
not a settlement and that the Jewish state is doing nothing to
harm the peace process with the Palestinians.

"Jerusalem isn`t a settlement Jerusalem is the
capital of Israel. Israel has never put any sort of limits on
construction in Jerusalem, where some 800,000 people reside,
and didn`t do so during the 10 month settlement freeze in the
West Bank either," a statement from the Prime Minister`s
Office said.

The statement referred to temporary moratorium on
constructions in the West Bank settlements declared by Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last November, which expired
in September restarting building activities and pushing
renewed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians
to a grinding halt.

"Israel does not see any connection between the peace
process and the building and planning policy in Jerusalem,
which hasn`t changed for 40 years," Netanyahu`s statement

"Every Israeli government in the last 40 years has
built in all parts of the city. During this period, peace
agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan and for 17 years,
peace negotiations with the Palestinians were carried out.

These are historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has
never disrupted the peace process," he emphasised.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama warned that
Israel`s new building plan could obstruct the peace process.

"This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes
to peace negotiations," said Obama, adding that he was
concerned Israel and Palestinian were not making enough of an
effort to advance peace negotiations.

Our difference of opinion with the United States
regarding Jerusalem is well-known, the Israeli Premier`s
response stated.

"This, also, isn`t a new development and is something
that has been going on for 40 years. We hope to overcome this
and continue moving forward with the peace process," Netanyahu

The Israeli announcement sparked worldwide criticisms
with the United Nations, United States, European Union and the
Palestinian Authority (PA) describing it as a hindrance in the
progress of peace talks.

Palestinians yesterday urged the international
community to immediately recognise a Palestinian state in
response to Israel`s decision. "This latest unilateral Israeli act necessitates
dramatic international action for immediate recognition of the
Palestinian state (based) on the June 4, 1967 borders," Chief
PA negotiator, Saeb Erakat said in a statement.

Erakat said that "those who expected Netanyahu to
declare in the United States that he is committed to the
negotiations received the answer, which is so loud that it
has reached (US) President (Barack) Obama in New Delhi."

The Palestinian negotiator accused Netanyahu of
"making it clear that his policy is building in the
settlements, setting up the fence and deepening the

Erekat also emphasised that in light of the recent
developments he expected Israel`s close ally, the United
States, to "make a clear announcement on which side is
responsible for the talks` failure."

The constructions in the east Jerusalem settlement of
Ariel has been at the center of controversy between Israel and
the United States.

While Israel sees the as part of a large settlement
bloc, the United States sees it as a panhandle sticking into
the West Bank, intended to prevent Palestinian territorial

The area earmarked for Ariel`s new neighbourhood is
right next to the Palestinian town of Salfit.

PA walked out of "direct talks" with Israel that
started off in September under US mediation asserting that
Israel first impose total freeze on building activities in the
West Bank and east Jerusalem.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced
his concern over the new construction plan during his meeting
with Netanyahu in New York on Monday.
EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, also joined
the global condemnations of Israel`s decision to build new
housing units.

"This plan contradicts the efforts by the
international community to resume direct negotiations and the
decision should be reversed," Ashton said in a statement.

"Settlements are illegal under international law,
constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a
two-state solution impossible," she added. Meanwhile, the US rejected Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu`s contention that construction in East
Jerusalem does not affect the peace process with the
Palestinians as "incorrect".

US State Department spokesman Philip J Crowley said
that the statement from Netanyahu`s office was unhelpful,
and dismissed its suggestion there was no link between
settlement activity and the peace process.

"There clearly is a link in the sense that it is
incumbent on both parties, as we`ve insisted all along, that
they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful
negotiation," Crowley said.

"To suggest that this kind of announcement would not
have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect,"
he added.


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