In Berlin, Benjamin Netanyahu still defiant on new Israeli settlements


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, on December 6, 2012.



BERLIN, Germany — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the West Bank corridor where his government plans to build new settlements will always be part of Israel, even under a future peace treaty.

Netanyahu spoke during a visit to Germany, one of several of Israel's allies to have condemned the plan.

Netanyahu seems to be ignoring their criticism. The Associated Press quotes him as saying of the disputed area in East Jerusalem and the West Bank:

"Successive governments from Yitzhak Rabin on down to my predecessor, Mr [Ehud] Olmert, have also said this would be incorporated in a final peace treaty."

As the AP noted, no such agreement has ever been reached – and Olmert himself opposed building in the so-called E1 area until a treaty was finalized.

Palestinians say the corridor is crucial to hopes for a contiguous Palestinian state. The 3,000 new homes that Netanyahu wants to build would link up with existing Israeli settlements to effectively divide the West Bank in two.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Netanyahu today against "one-sided moves."

"We agreed that we disagree on this," Merkel told a joint press conference, according to Reuters.

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The issue is a rare source of public tension between the two governments. Unlike six other European countries, Germany stopped short of summoning the Israeli ambassador to complain, but has nonetheless accused Israel of "sending out a negative message."

"It is eroding trust in its willingness to negotiate, and the land for a future Palestinian state is disappearing further," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday, Deutsche Welle reported.

Meanwhile Netanyahu told German newspaper Die Welt yesterday that he, "like many in Israel, was disappointed" by Germany's decision to abstain from the vote on Palestine's status at the United Nations. (Germany originally said it would oppose recognizing Palestine as a non-member state, but at the last minute abstained.)

The subsequent announcement of Israel's settlement plans, which came less than 24 hours after the UN vote, has left Netanyahu's government facing what GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky calls "one the worst diplomatic crises in its history."

"It was yet another in a series of public relations blunders that have plagued Israel in recent months and years, hurting its diplomatic standing with the rest of the world and confounding some of its staunchest allies," Tarnopolsky wrote from Jerusalem.

Yet Netanyahu has remained defiant, both on his plans to approve construction and his admission of the damage they have done to Israel's image abroad.

"I don't think we have lost Europe," Reuters quotes him as saying today in Berlin. "But there is obviously a difference of view in Europe on the issue of the settlements."

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