08/27/2009, 00.00
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The U.S. retreats in showdown with Netanyahu on East Jerusalem and settlements

by Joshua Lapide
by Joshua Lapide Despite the U.S. demand to stop the settlements, Netanyahu calls no halt to settlement building in the Holy City; 2500 buildings already started; "natural" growth of settlements in the Occupied Territories. Meanwhile the Palestinians are preparing to launch state institutions to give birth to a state "despite the Israeli occupation."

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - According to Israeli and Western diplomats, the United States have become less demanding with regard to Israel, turning a blind eye on the settlements of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Meanwhile the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority has declared that they will equip all institutions for the emergence of a state within two years.

In an effort to collate the international community against Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a 4-day visit to London and Berlin. Britain, Germany and especially the United States have already expressed the view that increased sanctions against Iran (or perhaps a green light for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear stations) can only happen if Tel Aviv agrees to take some steps towards the Arab and Palestinian world, freezing all settlements in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem.

According to international law, all Israeli settlements on occupied land are illegal. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton's and the Middle East envoy George Mitchell have always wanted the total freeze of settlements as a pre-condition to the resumption of the peace process with the Palestinians.

In the talks with Mitchell in London, Netanyahu proposed a temporary freeze - about 9 months – of construction in the West Bank, but would not be drawn on a similar condition for construction in East Jerusalem. In the Arab zone of the city, through expropriation and ad hoc legislation, the Israeli Jewish population is expanding, making possible use of the east of the city as capital of a future Palestinian state increasingly difficult.

After a meeting with Gordon Brown in London, Netanyahu wanted to clarify that "Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel, and we accept no limitation to our sovereignty. To make everything clear, Jerusalem is not a settlement”.

The Israeli proposal to Mitchell also demands exceptions for the settlements in the Occupied Territories. For 2500 blocks of houses already started must not be halted. At the same time, Netanyahu wants the "physiological" growth of settlements that already exist to continue.

Currently about 500 thousand Israelis live in West Bank and East Jerusalem, captured by Israel after the Six Day War in 1967.

According to the Israeli organization Peace Now there are at least 121 colonies recognized by Israel in the Occupied Territories, in addition, there are 102 "outposts" not recognized from Tel Aviv, but which sooner or later will receive recognition. Since 2001, the population of these settlements has increased by 5-6% per year.

Israeli and Palestinians analyst believe the proliferation of settlements in the occupied territories will the difficulty in marking clear boundaries of a future state between Israel and Palestinian.

Perhaps under the pressure of the rapid growth of settlements, two days ago, August 25, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that he intends to create all the state institutions so that a Palestinian state will see the light within two years, "despite the Israeli occupation”.

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