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.

 

US-led coalition warplanes hit IS near Syria's Al-Bab

Florida airport shooter ‘inspired’ by IS jiahdists

Iraq forces 'liberate' eastern Mosul

Palestinian home demolitions spark deadly violence

Syria war forces elderly to take shelter in retirement homes

France says Iraqi jihadist among 2015 stadium bombers

Russia, Turkey stage first joint air strikes against IS in Syria

IS advances on terrified citizens of Syria’s Deir Ezzor

In path to greater executive power, Erdogan faces weak Turkey economy

Switzerland drops war crimes case against former Algerian defence minister

Patience wears thin in Iraq's Fallujah

New UN chief stresses importance of Syria peace talks

Istanbul nightclub attacker 'received orders from IS'

Turkish border officials refuse entry to NYT reporter

Fatah, Hamas agree to form unity government

Snowden’s stay in Russia extended by two years

East Syria clashes continue between IS, regime forces

Syrian general, 8 soldiers killed in tunnel blast

Iran opposes US joining Syria talks

Turkey snubs UN hearing on detained Rwanda genocide judge

Rouhani calls for end to Saudi ‘interference’ across region

Saudi says China rise source of global stability not conflict

Lengthy drought leaves Somalia with serious famine risk

Gunman found in comfy Istanbul flat

Iran, Syria sign phone, petrol deals in Tehran

Jordan charges 8 with inciting opposition against regime

Iranian president rules out renegotiating nuclear deal

Turkey prosecutors demand up to 142 years in jail for Kurd leader

180 dead after boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Saudi carries out first death sentence of 2017

Libyan granted right to sue UK ex-minister for rendition

Syria regime, rebels name heads of delegation for Astana talks

Istanbul nightclub attacker captured

Syria troops, IS jihadists battle on in Deir Ezzor

Israel occupation forces rearrest Palestinian journalist

Russian FM says Syria peace talks to ‘consolidate’ ceasefire

Amnesty warns EU's anti-terror laws threaten human rights

Saudi health emergency after mass food poisoning

Darfur rebel groups rebuilding their forces in Libya, South Sudan

Saudi FM says Washington, Riyadh interests align

Morocco parliament elects new speaker

Hamas rejects ‘absurd’ Paris peace conference

Israeli army shoots dead Palestinian in West Bank clashes

Obama warns Trump against undoing Iran deal on anniversary

Turkish policeman who assassinated Russian ambassador buried in unmarked grave