IOF approves 1600 extra settler homes while Biden talks
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The move infuriated the Palestinians, who consider settlements to be a major hurdle in long-hobbled attempts to reach a peace accord, and who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
“This is a hazardous decision and will hinder the negotiations,” Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told sources. “We consider the decision to build in East Jerusalem to be a judgment that the American efforts have failed before the indirect negotiations have even begun.”
The announcement came two days after the Palestinians reluctantly agreed to indirect talks after months of US shuttle diplomacy and coincided with the trip by Biden, the highest-level Obama administration official to visit Israel.
Biden had earlier pledged Washington’s “absolute, total, unvarnished dedication to Israel’s security.”
There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security,” he said after talks with hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied Jerusalem.
Biden also stressed Washington’s determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and demanded that Tehran stop supporting “terrorist groups,” which he said threaten Israel as well as US interests.
Biden said he was “very pleased” with the resolution to hold new Middle East talks, despite deep skepticism about their prospects.
“President Obama and I strongly believe the best long-term guarantee for Israel’s security is a comprehensive Middle East peace with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, with Lebanon and leading eventually to full and normalized relationships with the entire Arab world,” Biden said.
Israel on Monday, the first day of Biden’s visit, had already given the go-ahead for 112 new homes in a West Bank settlement in an exemption to a partial moratorium on settlement construction announced in November which does not include East Jerusalem.
Biden also held talks with President Shimon Peres, who warned against hasty expectations.
Biden is expected to head on Wednesday to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.