US urges Israel to refrain from new settlements

US urges Israel to refrain from new settlements
Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:06:15

Washington has warned the Israeli regime about the consequences of announcing a new wave of illegal construction in the West Bank settlements when it releases the next group of Palestinian prisoners on December 29.

According to a senior Israeli official, US Secretary of State John Kerry, special envoy for the peace process Martin Indyk and several other senior American officials have all urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials to exercise maximum restraint in announcing new construction, lest the measure undermine the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The Israeli regime has been under fire from the international community, including its own allies, over its expansionist policies.

Kerry has visited occupied lands and the Palestinian Authority twice in the last three weeks, and had considered returning again on Thursday, on his way back to Washington from Southeast Asia. But he ultimately decided against it, and is now expected to return only in January, after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Under the US-brokered deal that enabled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to begin in July, Zionist regime is to release four groups of Palestinian prisoners over the course of the talks, all of whom have been in jail since before the 1993 Oslo Accord was signed.

The principal challenge Kerry will face in the coming weeks is the release of the third batch on December 29. When the second batch was released two months ago, Netanyahu approved the publication of tenders for 5,000 housing units in the West Bank and East al-Quds. In response, the Palestinians suspended negotiations with Israel for two weeks and threatened to pull out of the talks altogether.

The senior Israeli official said that during both of Kerry’s last two visits, Netanyahu warned the secretary of state that Israel would announce new construction tenders to coincide with the next prisoner release as well.

Sources in al-Quds said Wednesday night that Israel will continue construction in the settlements in accordance with its agreements, according to the report.

In mid-November, US President’s National Advisor Susan Rice said Israel’s settlement expansion lacks ‘legitimacy’ as it fuels tensions hampering the Palestinian-Israeli talks.

Over half a million Israelis live in more than 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.


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