Israeli army has demolished a number of Palestinian houses and their mosque in an occupied territory in West Bank. Palestinian villagers claim the mosque was built before 1967 war while Israel claims the demolished structures are temporary and built without permission.
The Israeli ministry of Defence said the structures are temporary and none of the structures was mosque. It said the area was a military fire zone.
But, designating a part of an occupied territory as a military firing zone is itself a ploy to demolish the houses or whatever construction standing in that place. Israel demolished many mosques previously. Not only Israeli army but also the Israeli settlers often described as Jewish extremists brought down number of mosques since the construction of settlements began after 1967 war.
Cracks emerged in Israel’s right-wing coalition on Tuesday ahead of an expected cabinet vote on whether to accept U.S. inducements to freeze West Bank settlement building so that stalled peace talks can resume. "I think we are facing a real disagreement," said Benny Begin, a respected right-wing minister and son of the late Menachem Begin who made peace with Egypt in the late 1970s. He said Washington’s offer to Israel of 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion was "the bait to push us into the diplomatic trap" by agreeing to a proposed 90-day halt to Jewish settlement building in the occupied territory.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor confirmed on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was waiting to receive the offer in writing from Washington before putting it to a vote in cabinet which is expected to convene on Wednesday. If the letter reflected verbal agreements between Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York talks last week, then the cabinet would vote on it, he said.
In addition to ultranationalist, religious and pro-settler allies in his coalition, Netanyahu faces stiff opposition from within his own right-wing Likud party, where many lawmakers have vehemently stated their opposition to Israeli concessions. "(We) will do everything we can to prevent a decision on a freeze. We are also appealing to all members of our Likud faction to express their view," prominent Likud lawmaker Zeev Elkin said on Monday.
An Israeli diplomatic source said the U.S. written commitment was being delayed by pressure from the Palestinians, who object that it exempts East Jerusalem from a freeze, denies them any chance of seeking a further moratorium, and prevents them from pursuing an imposed settlement via the United Nations. Palestinian presidential aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians had yet to receive details of the final proposal and had made no formal remarks to the Americans concerning it.
STAKES GET HIGHER
U.S. President Barack Obama invested substantial political capital in persuading the Palestinians to resume direct talks with Israel in early September, after months of mediation. But, true to their warnings, they halted negotiations when Netanyahu refused to extend the 10-month partial construction moratorium on Jewish settlements in the West Bank after it expired at the end of that month.
Reuters | 11/13/2010 | 7:04:22 PM ET
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed ministers a five-point U.S. peace plan that included a 90-day settlement freeze, a diplomatic source told reporters on Saturday. The plan also includes a pledge not to seek any extension to the settlement freeze after the 90-day period, a vow to veto any attempts at the United Nations to force a unilateral peace deal and an agreement on supplying Israel with more war planes.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, renewed under Washington’s sponsorship on September 2, broke down a few weeks later when Israel balked at renewing a settlement moratorium.
Netanyahu met his top "Forum of Seven" ministers a day after returning from a week-long U.S. tour that included talks on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at which she unveiled the plan he showed his cabinet, the source said. Netanyahu hopes he may win approval for the plan from his pro-settler cabinet later this week, political sources said.
Among the pledges offered to Israel by Washington, was a guarantee to veto any resolutions brought to the United Nations Security Council that seek "to impose a political settlement on Israel," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had no immediate comment. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the Palestinian leader was likely to wait to see whether Israel approved the ideas before issuing any comment.
An additional freeze
Under the plan Israel would "declare an additional suspension of construction" in the West Bank, land it captured from Jordan in a 1967 war, for 90 days. Building begun since a moratorium ended in September, would be halted, the source said. The proposed construction freeze would not include East Jerusalem, an area Israel has annexed as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally and which Palestinians want as capital of any future state.
BBC | 22 October 2010 | 03:58 GMT
Jewish settlers have started building more than 600 homes in the West Bank since a building freeze expired last month, an Israeli pressure group says. The pace of building was four times faster than before the restrictions were put in place, Peace Now said. Palestinian negotiators have threatened to walk out of the recently resumed direct peace talks with Israel unless the construction freeze is reinstated.
A UN envoy criticised Israel over the report, describing it as "alarming". Robert Serry, the UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said building on occupied land was illegal under international law and would "only further undermine trust" in the peace process.
A spokesman for Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, told the BBC that more details on the new homes being built by settlers would be released in a report on Monday. Another official from the group, Hagit Ofran, added, "I estimate that work has started at about 600 housing units [since the end of the construction freeze], and I’m looking to complete the survey in order to know the exact number, and it is [at] different stages of construction. In some places, it is only levelling the ground that has started and in others, it’s the very foundation that is now being dug."
A separate count by the Associated Press estimated that ground had been broken on at least 544 new West Bank homes since 26 September, when Israel lifted its 10-month freeze on most new settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib said the figure was "alarming and is another indicator that Israel is not serious about the peace process, which is supposed to be about ending the occupation".
But Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev said Israel wanted to "proceed to move forward in the peace process and all the difficult issues, all the core issues of the conflict are on the table, including the sensitive issue of settlements.
"In the interim, the limited construction under way will in no way impact upon the final contours of a peace agreement. Ultimately, it’s not about settlements, it’s about reaching a historic peace settlement," he added. An organisation representing Jewish settlers told the BBC they were not counting houses and the settlements needed to grow at a "natural pace".
BBC | 11 October 2010 | 17:17 GMT
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to renew a partial freeze on settlement building, if the Palestinians recognise Israel as "a Jewish state". A Palestinian spokesperson has rejected the condition.
Israel has been under international pressure to renew its partial freeze on settlements in the occupied West Bank. Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians had been under threat of collapse over the issue. Palestinian officials have said they will pull out of the talks if the freeze on building in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, is not renewed. The 10-month freeze expired in late September.
Palestinian officials have argued in the past that recognising Israel as a Jewish state would compromise the rights of 20% of the Israeli population that is not Jewish, and cancel the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Speaking at the opening of the winter session of the Israeli parliament, Mr Netanyahu said: "If the Palestinian leadership will unequivocally say to its people that it recognises Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, I will be ready to convene my cabinet and ask for another moratorium on building."
He said the offer, and its attached condition, had already been passed to the Palestinians "though quiet channels" and now he was making it public. He said accepting Israel as a Jewish state would show that the Palestinians "are truly ready to live with us in peace".
BBC News | 8 October 2010 | 21:39 GMT
Arab League foreign ministers have given the US one month to rescue deadlocked Middle East peace talks. At a meeting in Libya, they endorsed a decision by the Palestinian negotiators to stay away unless Israel restored a partial settlement construction freeze. But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.
The direct negotiations, the first in almost two years, resumed in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Afterwards Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, told reporters: "The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks." "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements," he added.
The Arab League ministers are now due to meet again in a month’s time to review the situation. The US state department later said: "We appreciate the Arab League’s statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."
Reuters | Oct 8, 2010 | 6:57pm IST
Arab leaders will begin drafting alternatives for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because the current round of talks has stalled, Arab League Secretary-General Amir Moussa said on Friday. "We will meet to formulate the beginning of alternatives within the framework that the negotiations are not bearing fruit," Moussa said after a meeting of the Arab League’s peace process follow-up committee in Libya.
"There are no talks at the moment because the position of the Israelis is very, very negative. They are not cooperating in the negotiations," Moussa said. The committee would meet the Palestinian delegation on Friday night but would not advise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas what he should do next, Moussa said.
The Arab League foreign ministers met in the Libyan town of Sirte to hear Abbas’s case for suspending talks with Israel until it extends a moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank. Launched in Washington just five weeks ago, the talks veered into a dead end on Sept. 26 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentayhu refused to extend a halt to construction of Jewish settlements, which he had said would last 10 months.