OBAMA fumes, NETANYAHU laughs

The Obama Administration has attacked Israel for giving a green light to the building of hundreds of new homes in the West Bank even as the two sides negotiate a (temporary) freeze on settlement construction.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, is set to approve the new homes in the coming days, a move that appears aimed at softening opposition within his rightwing Likud party to a temporary settlement freeze. An official close to Mr Netanyahu said the PM would consider freezing building “for a few months” only after giving the green light to the construction of the new units for Jewish settlers.

“We regret the reports of Israel’s plans to approve additional settlement construction,” said Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman. “The US does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.” (There are no negotiations because the Palestinians will never recognize Israel. Case closed)

An Israeli official said the new expansion would be in addition to some 2,500 units already being built in the West Bank. None of the new homes will be in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state. (HAH!)

According to the Israeli official, a suspension of construction would be authorised only if the “conditions are right”, including if Arab countries made efforts to normalise ties with the Jewish state. (In other words, Israel should keep building) Palestinians are insisting that only a total freeze on construction would prompt the resumption of peace talks. Nabil Abu Rdainah, an aide to Mr Abbas, was quoted by Reuters as saying that “a partial settlement freeze is not enough”. FINANCIAL TIMES

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