Israeli Prime Minister says settlements do not affect Palestinian statehood

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister says settlements do not affect Palestinian statehood / Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday dismissed international criticism of Israel's recently announced plans to build in area near Jerusalem, saying its "simply not true" that the settlements are an obstacle to Palestinian statehood, dpa reported.

"I don't understand how this will prevent territorially the establishment of a Palestinian state," Netanyahu said, referring to Israeli construction in the area east of Jerusalem and west of Ma'aleh Adumim - the so-called E-1 area.

Israel announced the plan to build in E-1 on November 30, the day after the United Nations voted to upgrade the Palestinian status at the world body to "non-member observer status," in effect tacitly endorsing Palestinian statehood.

The Israel announcement has stirred a storm of protest, and the European Union said Monday it was "deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes" Israeli plans to expand settlements in the E-1 area.

"The E-1 plan, if implemented, would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states," foreign ministers said.

They also urged the Palestinian leadership "not to undertake steps which would deepen the lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution."

Netanyahu rejected the argument the building prevented Palestinian statehood as being "simply not true, it's false."

He also complained about the "deafening silence" after statements on Saturday by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal calling for Israel's destruction.

"Where was the outrage?" he asked.

Netanyahu also said that if, as polls predict, he receives another mandate in the elections set for January 22, then he will maintain his policy of not entering into negotiations with Palestinians if pre-conditions, such as a building freeze, are attached.

The comments came hours after senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a joint Palestinian-Arab delegation, bolstered by the UN's vote, will visit the United States, China and Britain next month with a fresh initiative to resume peace talks for up to six months.

Peace talks have been stalled since September 2010, when Israel refused a Palestinian demand to extend a 10-month partial moratorium on settlement building.

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