First Published: 2012-12-05


Israel PM heads to Berlin as settlement row snowballs


Netanyahu is due in Berlin for talks likely to focus on growing crisis over settlement plans that could torpedo viability of Palestinian state.


Middle East Online

By Hazel Ward – JERUSALEM

‘The root of the conflict is not the settlements’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due in Berlin on Wednesday for talks likely to focus on the growing crisis over settlement plans that could torpedo the viability of a Palestinian state.

Ahead of his departure on a trip that will take him briefly to Prague and then on to Berlin, Netanyahu brushed off the diplomatic pressure.

He insisted that Israel's settlement building was not the central issue in the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The root of the conflict is not the settlements; it is the very existence of the state of Israel and the desire to wipe it off the face of the earth," he said late on Tuesday.

"Our top public diplomacy mission is to explain that the root of this conflict is not territorial. It is over our very existence in any borders whatsoever."

Israel is facing mounting international pressure over its announcement that it will build 3,000 new settlement homes, including in an area east of Jerusalem, where observers say construction could crush hopes of a viable Palestinian state.

It announced the plans in response to the General Assembly's decision last week to upgrade Palestinian UN status.

On Tuesday night, the Palestinian leadership said it would ask the UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli settlement programme.

The leadership decided "as a first measure to turn to the UN Security Council... to request a constraining resolution for Israel to stop its decisions of destructive expansion and all forms of settlement."

The decision came after a chorus of disapproval from the international community, including the European Union, although Britain said on Tuesday that the grouping was unlikely to punish Israel by imposing trade sanctions.

Germany said it was "deeply concerned" about the Israeli plans and urged the Jewish state to reverse its decision.

"Both sides should act constructively and avoid obstructing what is urgently needed, namely the resumption of substantial direct peace talks," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

France, Britain, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Egypt have all summoned the Israeli ambassadors to protest the plans, which also drew criticism from Russia and Japan.

The site of the controversial new construction, known as E1, lies between the easternmost edge of annexed east Jerusalem and the nearby Maaleh Adumim settlement.

Observers say Israeli settlement there would effectively prevent the future establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state, dooming the two-state solution.

Washington has also warned construction in E1 "would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution" and President Barack Obama's spokesman urged Israel "to reconsider".

EU's ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, said on Tuesday that despite growing international calls, Israel had shown no sign it was planning to call off its construction plans.

"We've not had any signal or message back, for the time being, to indicate that this message has been heard and has been acted upon," he said.

"There have been in fact, to the contrary, further messages or announcements saying Israel will act upon what it considers to be its strategic interests, which may suggest that if it sees more measures as necessary it will take more measures," he said.

"This is not what we are asking for."

A source in Netanyahu's office stressed on Monday there would be "no change" to the decision.

Since then the Israeli government, which is in election mode, has announced it will revive plans for another 1,600 settlement homes in annexed east Jerusalem.


Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey

Tunisia group claims beheading of young shepherd on behalf of ISIS

Kerry arrives in Abu Dhabi for Syria discussions

Three Palestinians killed as fresh violence hits West Bank

Iran arrests ISIS-linked cell near Iraq border

Brussels remains on high alert for second day in a row

Israel seeks to strip citizenship of those who join ISIS

France warns Libya as ISIS gains ground

Fear escalates as ISIS edges closer to Syria Christian town

Iran sentences reporter Jason Rezaian to prison

Egyptians vote in second phase of parliamentary elections

Assad grateful to Russia as army advances on ‘nearly every front’

Obama calls for resolve in face of terrorist threats

Russia bombs ISIS in heaviest strikes since beginning of Syria war