French president, in West Bank, urges Israeli settlement halt

RAMALLAH, West Bank Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:40pm EST

1 of 6. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and his French counterpart Francois Hollande embrace during a joint news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande called on Israel on Monday to halt settlement building on occupied territory, saying it hampered chances for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel has announced plans for thousands of new settler homes since U.S.-brokered peace negotiations with the Palestinians began in July after a three-year break.

"For the sake of peace and to reach a deal, France calls for the total and definitive end to settlement building because it compromises the two-state solution," Hollande said at a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas described settlements as "the greatest threat that could end the peace process and lead to its failure".

But he reaffirmed that talks with Israel would continue for the full nine-month period agreed with the United States.

Hollande held talks on Sunday with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem which focused on international efforts to reach an agreement with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

He met Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinians' seat of government in the occupied West Bank, and laid a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat, their guerrilla leader and first president who died in 2004.

After a public signing of economic aid and development agreements, Hollande said France had donated more in budget support to the Palestinians than to any other nation.

Palestinian negotiators last week offered to resign in protest against Israel's settlement drive, but Palestinian officials confirmed to Reuters that they would likely stay in place until they agreed to return or a new delegation was formed.

Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator, told Israeli radio that her Palestinian counterpart was "back in business" and that talks, paused for more than a week, would resume.

During a special session of Israel's parliament to welcome Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Abbas to come to the Knesset and offered to reciprocate with a visit to Ramallah but attached terms that Abbas appeared unlikely to accept.

"I call on (Abbas) today ... come to Israel's Knesset. I will come to Ramallah. Come to this stage and acknowledge the historic truth: the Jews have a connection of almost 4,000 years to the land of Israel," Netanyahu said in a speech.

In his address to the Knesset, Hollande repeated his call for a halt to settlement building and drew applause from Israeli-Arab lawmakers.

Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, now under the control of Abbas's Hamas Islamist rivals, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They fear Israel's settlements will deny them a viable country.

More than 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem alongside 2.5 million Palestinians. Israeli cites historical and Biblical links to those areas.

Most countries consider the settlements Israel has built on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

(Additional reporting by Noah Browning and Crispian Balmer, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (2)
gunste wrote:
The two state solution will never make it over Israel’s Right Wing objections and the argument that the land is Israel’s based on biblical and historical stories.

Perhaps a new approach is called for. Let the Palestinians and Jordanians agree to the annexation of the West Bank. That would make the two state solution an instant fact. The 500,000 Israelis who live in the illegal settlements, can then apply for Jordanian citizenship. The result would be a more independent, functioning, larger country which can require that the Israeli Defense Force occupiers can go home. Recognition by the major powers would make this a fait accompli to which Israel can hardly object.

Nov 18, 2013 4:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SayAmen wrote:
The settlements are not an obstacle to peace. They are the most effective, non-violent tool Israel can use to make peace.

After the ’67 war, Israel built settlements and towns in the Sinai. It pressured Egypt to make peace before too many Jews moved into the Sinai and it would be too late. When Egypt finally offered peace, Israel gave up the settlements. The settlements helped to pressure Egypt to make peace.

The Arabs do not want to live in peace with Israel. They want no Israel. The Arabs use terror to pressure Israel to give up and leave the Mid-East. Their strategy is to make life in the Mid-East seem impossible for Jews. Israel uses the settlements to pressure the Arabs to make peace before it is too late. The settlements say to the Arabs: “Your violence and terror are not working. We will never leave. While you dedicate your children to die, killing us, we are dedicating our children to build and live in a growing land. The longer you wait to make peace, the stronger we will become and the less chance there will be that we will need to give up land.”

Stopping the settlements will eliminate the most effective tool available to persuade the Arabs to make peace.

Nov 18, 2013 6:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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