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.

 

Chief negotiator of Syria opposition quits over failed talks

Iraq forces enter ISIS-held Fallujah from three directions

Bahrain appeal court ramps up jail sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman

Without clear roadmap, Libya unity government fails to bring change

In Iraq town, fans of Real Madrid gather in 'challenge to ISIS'

Starving Iraqis risk all to flee crumbling rule of ISIS

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sowing ‘sedition’ in Iraq

Israel police send Netanyahu spending file to prosecutors

Bahrain court upholds life terms for five 'spies'

Investigators need 12 days to recover EgyptAir black boxes

Iraq troops prepare for final assault on ISIS-held Fallujah

Iraq Kurdish forces launch offensive east of Mosul

Shipwrecks in Mediterranean claim up to 700 lives in one week

Iran blames Saudi Arabia for Hajj impasse

ISIS offensive triggers mass displacement in northern Syria

Iran moderate conservative retains parliament speakership

Iran delegation leaves Saudi Arabia without Hajj deal

Hundreds of civilians flee Fallujah area in Iraq

Khamenei urges Iran lawmakers to resist Western 'schemes'

ISIS-rebel clashes grip northeast Syria town

New US law could sanction Hezbollah officials

Thousands of protesters gather in central Bagdad

99 lashes for partying Iranian students

100,000 Syrians trapped after shock IS advance in Aleppo

Iran sticking to nuclear deal: UN watchdog

Turkey party seeks constitutional change to boost president's powers

Turkey accuses US of 'hypocrisy' on Kurdish militia in Syria

Israel environment minister resigns from 'extremist government'

US-led coalition pounds IS near Raqa

Tunisia mulls allowing women to serve in army

US-backed fighters battle IS near Syria stronghold

Tunisia tourism sees 'slight recovery'

UN envoy calls for economic rescue plan for Yemen

Bahrain jails 19 for attacks on police

Up to 30 dead in shipwreck off Libya

UN says Syrians will 'starve' unless aid improves

Christian homes set ablaze in Egyptian village 'love story'

Kuwait's main opposition group ends polls boycott

Twin offensives on IS edge forward in Syria, Iraq

Private firms to help in hunt for Egyptair black boxes

New Israeli defence minister's tough talk to be put to the test

Syria most dangerous place for health workers

Concern for civilians trapped in Iraq's Fallujah

Brent rises past $50 a barrel

Iraq PM urges protesters to stay home