Israel replies to Palestine statehood bid with new East Jerusalem settlement plans

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 28 rejected Western and Arab complaints that the newly announced construction of 1,100 Jewish homes in Gilo on annexed land close to East Jerusalem would hurt efforts to revive the peace process. “Gilo is not a settlement nor an outpost,” Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said. “It is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem about five minutes from the center of town.” He asserted that in every peace plan on the table over the past 18 years Gilo “stays part of Jerusalem and therefore this planning decision in no way contradicts” the Israeli government’s stated desire for peace based on a two-state solution.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied at the UN on Sept. 23 for full Palestinian membership, a move opposed by Israel and the US, which urged him to resume negotiations to end the 63-year-old conflict. But the PLO rejected a proposal by the US, European Union, the and Russia to resume suspended peace talks with Israel next month without preconditions.

The PLO executive committee, meeting in Ramallah, said that Israel must halt all settlement building in the occupied West Bank before they will restart talks. “The Palestinian leadership stresses clearly that it cannot accept holding negotiations that lack the minimum limits of responsibility and seriousness amid the continuation of settlements and stealing of land,” said PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo.

The EU, Russia and Turkey as well as Arab states have called on Israel to drop the GIlo development plans. “This illegal measure represents a new and glaring Israeli defiance to the international community, which endeavors to restore credibility to the peace process,” said Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr, currently on a visit to the US. (Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Sept. 29; Haaretz, Reuters, Sept. 28; AP, Sept. 27)

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