Rice Talks Peace, Israel Builds Settlements

While US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting on Monday, January 15, with Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert to revive peace talks and push for a Palestinian state, Tel Aviv invited bids for expanding the largest Jewish settlement in the occupied West

Rice Talks Peace, Israel Builds Settlements

The Israeli Housing Ministry announced bids for building 44 new housing units in the Maale Adumim settlement east of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) in advertisements published in Israeli newspapers, reported Haaretz.

Most of the construction tenders issued by Israel in 2006 were for settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In September, the Israeli authorities invited bids for construction of 864 new housing units in West Bank settlements.

Some 543 new housing units were built last year in existing West Bank settlements.

Israel also gave on Tuesday, December 26, the go-ahead for building a new settlement on a land that previously housed an installation of occupation forces in the Jordan Valley region, the first officially authorized settlement built in the occupied West Bank in more than 10 years.

The internationally-backed roadmap peace plan demands a halt to settlement construction and expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The international community regards all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 War, as illegal regardless of whether they have Israeli government authorization.

However, in a letter to former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon in 2004, US President George W. Bush signaled support for an eventual arrangement in which "already existing major Israeli populations centers" would someday become part of Israel.


"This is just spitting in the face of the American government," said an Israeli Peace Now spokesman.

The Israeli Peace Now movement blasted the new settlement expansion bids, the first in 2007.

"This is just spitting in the face of the American government," spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"The same day that Olmert meets with Condoleezza Rice, the Israeli government is publishing the first bids for expanding settlements this year.

"This is the best way to say to the American government the truth -- that Israel is ignoring its commitments under the roadmap."

Rice was supposed to press Olmert to take steps that could help bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah in his power struggle with the ruling Hamas.

She was also expected to press Olmert to fulfill pledges made at his first formal meeting with Abbas on December 23 to remove roadblocks in the occupied West Bank and release $100 million in withheld Palestinian tax funds to Abbas.

After her meeting with Olmert, Rice will travel to Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as Germany and Britain.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said Rice's visit, her eighth to the region during her two years as secretary of state, was meant to test the waters for a more concerted peace push in the coming months.

Rice, who held talks on Sunday with Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah, promised to deepen US involvement in the peace process, which collapsed in 2000.

She offered no details in public about her future plans.

Israeli officials said Washington was exploring several options including the creation of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, an idea proposed in the road map but repeatedly rejected by Abbas.

The Palestinian leader spoke of his refusal of "any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders, because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon."

He underlined the need for "active and continuous mobilization by the various regional and international parties... to achieve a durable and continuing peace... so that the region and the people enjoy peace and security."

European and Arab allies have long pressed Washington to get more involved in the peace process.

On Rice's lightning visit to neighboring Jordan Sunday, the monarch told her concrete progress needed to be made on the roadmap blueprint if the region was to be spared fresh bloodshed.

"Without tangible, specific steps to activate the implementation of the roadmap in the near future, the cycle of violence will widen," he said.

Critics say Washington is responding now only because it needs help in the region in containing Iraq's slide into sectarian carnage and Iran's nuclear program.

Rice is also due to visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt as she seeks to promote Bush's new Iraq policy which includes the deployment of 21,500 more troops.

The plan has come under fire in many Arab capitals, even among staunch allies in the Gulf, with critics saying it provides a recipe for more sectarian violence in Iraq that could backfire elsewhere in the region.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16