Israel vows to build settlements in Jerusalem



Israel vows to build settlements in Jerusalem Jerusalem: Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday vowed to build settlements across Jerusalem in defiance of a key demand from its close ally US to freeze constructions in the eastern part of the city.

"The struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle for truth," Netanyahu said in an address at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva, marking 43 years of capture of Arab east Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.

The Day festivities kicked off at sundown yesterday and continued through the night with prayers and gatherings to mark the anniversary. Security was tight with thousands of police and security forces deployed across the city to ensure the festivities went off without a hitch.

"No other nation has the same ties as we do to Jerusalem, but there is also no nation that has allowed so much freedom of worship to others. We are building the city. We will continue to build it and ensure it thrives," he said.

His comments just days after the launch of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is bound to irk the Palestinians and US, which is mediating the indirect peace talks.

Netanyahu's key ally in the government and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beteinu party, echoed similar sentiments in Tokyo during an official visit stressing that "normal life in Jerusalem would continue just as in any other city".

"Jerusalem is a united city open to all, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and it will remain that way in the future," said Lieberman, known for his anti-Arab sentiments, denying that Israel has agreed to freeze constructions in east Jerusalem.

The ultra-nationalist leader dubbed as 'the Kingmaker' in the current parliamentary composition also addressed the indirect peace talks with Palestinians saying it is a long and complex process that takes time.

Netanyahu has said that indirect talks with Palestinians kicked off without any pre-conditions, like Israel wanted, but media reports here have said that there is a de facto freeze on building activities in the overwhelmingly Arab populated east Jerusalem, considered the future capital of an independent Palestinian state under a peace agreement.

The US has said that Israel has agreed not to build in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of the city for two years.

A surprising announcement by Israel's Interior Ministry to build 1,600 homes in the neighbourhood during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to the region was dubbed as an "insult" by Washington and had sparked a crisis between the strategic partners, described by political commentators as the worst in the last 35 years.

PTI