08/05/2013, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Peace negotiations do not stop Israeli West Bank settlements

The enthusiasm for renewed talks between Israel and Palestine is dampened by a vote of the Israeli cabinet in favour of new settlements. For Christian Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, "Israel wants [. . .] to destroy the objective of the process". More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A week after agreeing to talks with the Palestinians, Israeli government on Sunday added 20 West Bank settlements to a list some 600 Jewish communities prioritised for aid. For Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, such a move would have a "destructive impact" on peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas met in Washington on 29 July to resume talks frozen since September 2010. The two leaders and their respective delegations also met at an iftar organised by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The iftar is the meal Muslims have to break their fast during Ramadan,

The issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories remains one of the main issues between the two sides.

In the recent update to the National Priority Area List, Israel added 91 new settlements, 89 on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier.

The Israeli government, who last week approved the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners as an incentive to resume talks with the first group due to be freed on 13 August, announced that funding for the territories was allocated for security reasons..

About 500,000 Jews live in the settlements built by Israel since its1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Considered illegal by the international community, the settlements established by Israel have always been one of the main stumbling blocks for peace.

For Israeli peace group Peace Now, the National Priority List is an explicit attempt to encourage Israelis to set up new settlements in the territories. However, they are illegal under international law, and raise serious questions about Israel's commitment to negotiations.

Four ministers abstained from the cabinet vote, including Environment minister Amir Peretz who said that funding Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories "goes against efforts to promote peace".

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