View Full Version : New Israeli Settlement Plans Unveiled On Eve Of Peace Talks

12-23-2007, 07:39 PM
New Israeli settlement plans unveiled on eve of peace talks


(Gold9472: So dumb.)

Published: Sunday December 23, 2007

Israel plans to enlarge two settlements in occupied Palestinian territory next year, a peace group said on Sunday, on the eve of the latest round of peace negotiations between the two sides.

The move was slammed by the Palestinians, who warned it could hamper the peace talks revived at a November US conference after a near seven-year hiatus.

Coming ahead of US President George W. Bush's planned visit to the region in January, the announcement is likely to elicit criticism from Israel's main ally, which blasted another settlement expansion several weeks ago.

In its 2008 budget, Israel has set aside more than 25 million dollars (18 million euros) to build new housing units in the Maale Adumim settlement in the occupied West Bank and in the Har Homa (Jebel Abu Ghneim) settlement in annexed east Jerusalem, the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP.

"We have discovered that the 2008 state budget includes 48 million shekels for the construction of 250 homes in the Maale Adumim settlement and 50 million more to build 500 homes in Har Homa," said Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer.

No comment was immediately available from the Israeli government spokesman.

But Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan confirmed the projects.

"We have always said that we can build in Har Homa which is inside the municipal limits of Jerusalem," he told army radio. "There may be problems for Maale Adumim, but we want to continue the natural extension" of big settlements.

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas slammed the new plans.

"Israel is still putting problems in the road of real negotiations," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP. "Israel doesn't want a permanent and just peace in the region.

"We call on the international community and the American administration to come out against the Israeli position and we ask the Israeli government to stop these steps very soon if they want to continue the negotiatons between us."

The announcement came a day before Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former premier Ahmed Qorei, respectively, were to meet for their second round of talks since the two sides formally relaunched peace negotiations at the US conference in Annapolis.

The issue of settlements marred the first round of negotiations on December 12 as just a week before the talks, Israel invited bids for more than 300 new housing units in the Har Homa settlement.

The expansion was slammed by the Palestinians and criticised by the European Union and Washington.

Earlier this week, Israel dropped plans to expand another east Jerusalem settlement in a move US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called a "good step," saying the expansion could have undermined peace talks.

Palestinians have demanded that Israel stop all settlement activity, as called for in the 2003 roadmap peace blueprint that both sides pledged to uphold when they renewed negotiations at the US conference.

The internationally-drafted roadmap calls on Israel to freeze all settlement activity and on the Palestinians to impose law and order.

Israel does not consider the Har Homa project to be a settlement because it lies within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, drawn up by Israel after it captured and annexed the mostly Arab eastern half of the city in 1967.

But the international community has never recognised the annexation, and Palestinians have demanded that east Jerusalem be the capital of their future state. The international community considers all Israeli settlements illegal.

12-23-2007, 09:15 PM
On a side note, Israeli President rejected some kind of peace deal or good gesture with Hamas today.