Israel expands 2 settlements ahead of direct talks with Palestinians

10:09, August 31, 2010      

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by Saud Abu Ramadan, Fares Akram

Three days before the direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are officially launched in Washington on Thursday, a Palestinian official revealed on Monday that Israel began to expand two Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinian state-run news agency Wafa has quoted Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) official, who is in charge of the Jewish settlement file in northern West Bank, as saying that the expansion have begun in the settlements of Elon Moreh and Giv'at Gilad north of Nablus.

"We saw the Israeli authorities allowing five caravans into the settlement of Elon Moreh north of the city of Nablus," said Daghlas, adding that similar expansion has taken place into the settlement of Giv'at Gilad on the road between Nablus and Qalqilia.

U.S. President Barack Obama is going to convene with both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the presence of Jordanian and Egyptian leaders, to announce the launching of the direct peace negotiations.

Once the direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are launched, it would last for one year and will tackle permanent status issues, mainly Jerusalem, settlement, refugees, borders, security, water and prisoners. The Palestinians hope the talks would end up with a final agreement.

However, Abbas and the PNA had warned the direct peace negotiations might collapse if Israel resumes expansion of settlement on September 26, the end of the ten-month freeze of settlement approved by Netanyahu's government.

Earlier on Monday, two senior Palestinian officials said that Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories "is the largest obstacle that will emerge during the rounds of the peace negotiations with Israel after they will be launched on September 2."

Hannan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee and a veteran Palestinian negotiator said that "stopping the settlement in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is the real test to the success of the negotiations."

Palestinian observers expect that the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu that has a right-wing majority "is unlikely going to extend the moratorium of settlement freeze." Netanyahu is facing pressure by far-right wing parties not to extend the freeze of settlement.

"Peace and settlements are separate tracks that can never meet, " Ashrawi told Voice of Palestine Radio. She noted that Israel stepped up settlement in East Jerusalem which the Palestinians see as a future capital. Israel excluded East Jerusalem from the moratorium.

In a televised speech he addressed to the Palestinians and aired by Palestine Satellite Television on Sunday, Abbas said Israel is to be blamed if the talks fail, where he accused Israel of threatening the negotiations by showing no readiness to freeze all forms of Jewish settlement.

Abbas had also told his people in the 20-minute speech that the Palestinians, who are going to the direct talks with Israel and are armed with the international Quartet committee statement and the Arab peace initiative "wouldn't lose anything if the direct negotiations collapse."

Meanwhile, Mustafa Al-Barghouti, leader of the leftist National Initiative Party, warned that Israel would increase building or expanding settlements "and this means destroying the direct peace talks," adding that "the Israeli government wants to use the negotiations to cover its settlement activities."

A Palestinian poll that was published on Monday and conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) showed that a majority among the Palestinians do not believe that the United States, the sponsor of the peace process, would be able to make a real and comprehensive peace within a year.

The poll said that 66 percent of Palestinians do not believe that President Obama will be able to help establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, while 34 percent believe that Obama can do so. 1,010 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem joined the poll.

Source: Xinhua


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