Israeli settlements "political suicide": Merkel ally

BERLIN Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:16pm EDT

Labourers work on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev June 29, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Labourers work on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev June 29, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Whiteside

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A senior member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party on Tuesday urged Israel not to build more settlements, warning it risked political suicide if it continued to do so.

In unusually strong comments for a German politician, Ruprecht Polenz, the head of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, was quoted as saying Israel's aim of having secure borders would only be possible with a two-state solution.

If Israel did not stop building settlements it ran the risk "of gradually committing suicide as a democratic state," Polenz told the Rheinische Post daily.

Enjoying safe borders would only be conceivable for Israel if East Jerusalem could operate as the capital of a Palestinian state, said Polenz. But he added Israel was trying to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank by building more settlements.

"Israel is overlooking the fact that neither Palestinians nor Arab states will agree to a solution without East Jerusalem," Polenz told the paper.

German politicians, who feel they have a special obligation to the country due to the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed, tend to be softer in their criticism of Israel than many other countries.

Separately, European Union president Sweden urged Israel to refrain from evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes in Arab East Jerusalem, where thousands are threatened with displacement.

A U.N. report in May said some 1,500 demolition orders were pending for homes built without a permit from Israel's Jerusalem Municipality in the east of the city.

The Swedish president said such actions were illegal under international law and called for them to end.

"These eviction notices follow other recent orders which adversely affect Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and, combined with the increase in settlement activity in East Jerusalem, further threaten the chances of peace."

Israel considers Jerusalem as its capital, including East Jerusalem which it captured in an 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally, and which Palestinian want to make the capital of their own future state.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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