Share This Page

Israel's plans to expand settlements add tension to peace talks

| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 9:45 p.m.
REUTERS
An Israeli policeman drags an ultra-Orthodox man during clashes in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem August 12, 2013. An Israeli police spokesperson said some 21 ultra-Orthodox protesters were detained on Monday in the town during clashes with police after a group of them broke into a construction site to prevent work from taking place at the site they believe contains ancient graves. REUTERS/Nir Elias (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

JERUSALEM — Israel's announcement of plans to expand Jewish settlements on land Palestinians seek for a state clouded the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks convening in the Middle East this week for the first time in three years.

The talks, which opened in Washington on July 30, were scheduled to resume on Wednesday in Israel, with further talks expected in the West Bank. Peace talks broke down three years ago in a dispute over settlement building.

Israel on Monday named 26 Palestinians whom it will free from jail this week as a goodwill gesture for the peace talks. They were expected to be released back to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip possibly as early as Tuesday evening.

The United States is seeking to broker an agreement on a “two-state solution” in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands occupied by the Israelis since a 1967 war.

The United States, European Union and United Nations on Monday condemned Israel's announcement on Sunday of construction plans for about 2,000 new settler homes.

Palestinians condemned the settlement plans but have stopped short of threatening to walk out of the talks.

During a visit to Colombia, Secretary of State John Kerry, whose painstaking shuttle diplomacy got the talks restarted in Washington last month, urged the Palestinians “not to react adversely” to Israel's latest plans.

He said Israel's settlement steps “were to some degree expected” and urged the parties to move ahead with the talks.

“The United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate,” Kerry said in Bogota.

Similar criticism was voiced by spokesmen for the European Union and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Israel's settlement expansion plans, which officials say is intended for West Bank areas Israel would seek to keep under any peace deal, were an attempt to sweeten with far-right allies of Netanyahu the unpopular plan to free Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis.

About 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem amid 2.5 million Palestinians.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.