11/26/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Netanyahu proposal on Israeli settlements a "deception"

by Joshua Lapide
The Israeli premier halts settlement construction for 10 months, but rules out restrictions on the natural growth of existing settlements. Even the settlements around East Jerusalem are exempt from restrictions. According to the Palestinians construction will continue, indeed "get worse."

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Members of the Palestinian Authority have criticized the proposal by Israeli Prime Minister this morning to stop, the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories for a 10 month period. "Israel talks about a slowdown, not a freeze," said a representative of the PLO. And Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Parliamentary deputy, adds: "What Netanyahu has announced is one of the biggest attempts at deception in his life."

Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced "with pain" that Israel will limit the construction of colonies for 10 months, to give "new impetus" to peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

But he also stated that "we will not stop existing building and will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential to normal life." Moreover, he added, the restrictions would not apply to Jerusalem, "our sovereign capital." Palestinians point out that the Netanyahu proposal in practice brings nothing new and that "the development of the settlements will go ahead as usual."  

Under international law, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories during the war of '67 are illegal. Nevertheless to date there are at least 500 thousand Israelis living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Israeli population in the colonies increases annually by 5-6%.

In 2003 Tel Aviv agreed to freeze settlements as a condition for peace talks with the Palestinians, but the halt never happened. In recent years Israel has built settlements in many areas including East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, calling them "part of Jerusalem."

According to analysts, this allows Israel to break the territorial continuity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, laying the foundations to make Jerusalem the only "sovereign and eternal capital" of Israel forever and subtracting East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. 

"They want the green light to build in east Talpiyot, Gilo, Ramat Eshkol," said a representative of the PLO. "These settlements are not even part of Jerusalem”, but were annexed to Jerusalem by law.

A few days ago the city government started the construction of 900 new homes in Gilo. According to the Palestinians the development in the West Bank will advance, indeed "things will be worse."

In recent months the U.S. president Barack Obama had said that the bloc of settlements was a prerequisite for the peace process. Yesterday, George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy for the Middle East called the Netanyahu proposal "significant" and of "substantial impact."

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