Netanyahu volte-face on issue of Jewish settlements

Last Updated: Monday, March 15, 2010 - 22:10

Jerusalem: Succumbing to pressures from
his right-wing Likud party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday made a volte-face on the issue of Jewish settlements in West Bank, saying Israel would `continue construction` in East Jerusalem as it has been doing over the last 42 years.

Israel`s nod last week for the construction of 1,600
new settlements for Jews in East Jerusalem angered the US,
particularly since it coincided with a visit by Vice-President
Joe Biden aimed at promoting renewed peace talks with the
Palestinians.

The issue has led to a diplomatic row leading to the
worst crisis in US-Israel ties in the last 35 years.

Last week, Netanyahu had described the construction of
1600 housing units in the area as "destructive" and an
incident that "should not have happened".

Facing members of his right-wing ruling Likud party,
Netanyahu retracted from yesterday`s position by asserting
that Israel would `continue to build in Jerusalem in the same
way that it has over the last 42 years".

Speaking to his cabinet yesterday, Netanyahu had
described the embarrassing incident when the Interior
Ministry announced new constructions in East Jerusalem during
US Vice President Joe Biden`s visit as "destructive", he
constituted a committee to look into the fiasco which has
strained Israel-US ties.

The Israeli premier did not specifically address the
diplomatic crisis with US over Israel`s announcement that it
would construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, but
political analysts have been predicting a hard time for the
hawkish Israeli leader leading an overwhelmingly right-wing
dominated coalition peppered with some extreme elements in his
own party.

When asked by lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely as to what would
happen in September, when the 10-month settlement freeze in
the West Bank ends, Netanyahu responded by saying that
construction would continue unabated".

The Likud party leader, serving a second term as
Prime Minister, has come under continuous criticism from the
local press for political insistence - saying one thing and
retracting soon wilting under political pressures.

Israel`s ambassador to the United States, Michael
Oren, has told the country`s diplomats there that US.

US-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35
years, despite attempts by the Prime Minister Benjamin to
project a sense of "business as usual," daily Ha`aretz
reported.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak earlier
asked the government to work toward defusing the diplomatic
crisis over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and getting
peace talks with the Palestinians back on track.

PTI



First Published: Monday, March 15, 2010 - 22:10

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