Israel signals readiness to limit settlement building for peace

JERUSALEM Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:13pm EDT

Houses are seen in a general view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, near Bethlehem March 17, 2013. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Houses are seen in a general view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, near Bethlehem March 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Monday that Israel was ready to confine Jewish settlement expansion to the blocs of occupied territory it wants to keep under any peace deal with the Palestinians, in a nod to U.S. efforts to revive stalled negotiations.

Settlement construction was cited as a key reason for the breakdown of U.S.-sponsored peace talks in 2010, and a stumbling block to Secretary of State John Kerry's latest efforts to revive negotiations towards founding a Palestinian state in land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Netanyahu told Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he wanted to resume peace talks, but that construction in the settlements in the West Bank would continue, "and continues today".

He added, though, that "we have to be smart about it, not just correct".

"Settlement in the blocs wouldn't substantively change the ability to reach an agreement," he said, referring to several clusters of enclaves where a majority of settlers live.

Netanyahu spoke behind closed doors and officials released some of his remarks in a statement issued later to reporters.

Israel has long said that under any peace agreement it intends to keep its largest settler enclaves built in Ariel, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, in Gush Etzion in the Bethlehem area, and in the Jerusalem area.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has so far linked a resumption of peace talks to a total freeze in settlement construction, which Palestinians see as establishing facts on the ground that deny them land they need for a viable state.

One of Netanyahu's senior political partners, member of parliament Avigdor Lieberman, told Army Radio Israel was already observing a break in construction in East Jerusalem.

"One should view this as a temporary hiatus," the former foreign minister said. He added: "We have an interest in Kerry succeeding."

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the same war in which it took the West Bank, but annexed the city as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be capital of their future state.

Since taking office in February, Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories four times in his drive to win the agreement of the sides to renew negotiations.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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Comments (12)
Poalima wrote:
North Korea strings the world along, pretending they might give up their nuclear ambitions, and the whole world sees through it.
Israel strings us along, pretending they might give up their goal of a “complete” Zion, and we buy into it every time.

Jun 10, 2013 8:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
trex2561 wrote:
This must mean Israel has what it wants for the time being or the US is offering a very large carrot. It is contrary to a Jew to not to want what others have starting with the Old Testament.

Jun 10, 2013 9:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sonorama wrote:
Smart, correct… How about just?

Jun 10, 2013 9:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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