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.

 

UN Syria peace talks begin in Geneva

Israel to deny Human Rights Watch visas for being ‘biased’

Iraqi forces enter IS-held west Mosul

Suicide bomb attack on rebels kills 51 near Al-Bab

Marrakesh clinches top ranking of African urban life

UN considers Syria sanctions over chemical attacks

Saudi Comic-Con slammed as ‘sin’ in online backlash

Jordanians protest government price hikes

Baghdad coordinated anti-IS airstrikes with Damascus says source

New Hamas Gaza leader makes first public appearance

Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Jordanian F-16 crashes in Saudi, pilot survives

Iraqi PM says air force strikes IS targets in Syria

UN slams light sentence for Israeli soldier

Saudi king seeks investment on rare Asia tour

Saudi minister discusses hajj with Iran

136 Turkish diplomats, soldiers seek German asylum since coup

New Hamas ‘strongman’ could spell fresh Israeli conflict

Suicide car bomb kills eight outside Yemen army base

Fired Turkish academics protest ‘unjust’ dismissals

Iraqi forces jovial after Mosul airport entry

Syrian rebels announce capture of flashpoint town from IS

Iraqi forces enter IS-held Mosul airport

Swedish citizen jailed for IS Facebook post

Somalia names new prime minister

Netanyahu backs pardon for Israel soldier who shot Palestinian

UN envoy meets Syrian rivals, hopes of breakthrough slim

Yemeni government forces pin back rebels on coast

Israeli Supreme Court appoints deeply right-wing judges

Hundreds of Australians protest Netanyahu

Yemen rebel fire kills policeman on Saudi border

UN condemns Israel's new West Bank demolition plans

UN envoy says Russia asked Syria to halt bombing during talks

Bahrain arrests 20, approves military trials for civilians

Israel blocks EU lawmakers from Gaza entry

Syrian migrant on trial in Austria over 20 murders

UN says rapes, killings still blight Darfur

Yemen president says Saudi saving $10 bn for reconstruction

Top Yemen commander killed in missile strike

New Somali president says ability to deal with nation's problems 'limited'

Israel lifts ban on basketball team playing in Turkey

Arab League condemns Israeli soldier’s lenient sentence

Turkey lifts ban on Islamic headscarves in army

Israeli ministry orders removal of Haifa ammonia tank

Iraqi forces ready for assault on Mosul airport