The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 3, 2012

Israel rejects European pressure over settlements

(Continued)

Germany, which abstained in the U.N. vote, expressed concern Monday over the Israeli move but wouldn't say whether it had taken any direct measures in response. Netanyahu is due in Berlin on Wednesday for a previously scheduled meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said Germany took a "very negative view" of the settlement announcement, which he said undermined peace efforts.

The Palestinians view continued settlement expansion as a show of bad faith and refuse to return to talks unless construction is frozen. Netanyahu notes a 10-month settlement slowdown in 2010 failed to jump-start negotiations, and rejects calls for a new construction freeze.

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel still occupies those first two territories and restricts access to Gaza, though it withdrew all settlers and soldiers in 2005.

Netanyahu rejects a return to Israel's 1967 lines. His government campaigned against the U.N. measure, saying only direct negotiations could produce a Palestinian state.

Israel retaliated by announcing the next day that it would start drawing up plans to build 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. More explosively, from the Palestinian point of view, it said it would begin planning work for a chunk of land east of Jerusalem known as E1.

Building there would sever the link between the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim for a future capital. It would also cut off the northern part of the West Bank from its southern flank.

On Wednesday, Israel's planning and construction committee for the area is scheduled to hold a first-ever meeting to discuss developing the E1 area, a defense official said.

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