Thursday, January 16, 2014

Netanyahu wants to retain a fourth settlement bloc in negotiations with Abbas

Construction in Beit El in February 2013 ( 

According to a report Thursday on Army Radio, Netanyahu has been seeking to define a fourth bloc of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in the vicinity of Beit El, that Israel would retain in any future agreement with the Palestinians.
The report, which cited an unnamed senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations, harked back to previous reports that the Israeli negotiating team has brought up the option of renting or purchasing land from the Palestinian Authority. The older reports did not specify which swaths of land Israel would seek to retain.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined The Times of Israel’s request for comment.
Located near the Palestinian administrative capital of Ramallah, the Beit El bloc joins three other West Bank areas — the Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel blocs — over which Israel wishes to retain control, even after the signing of a peace agreement. In peace proposals that have been under discussion in the past, , it was proposed that Israel swaps land of an equal proportion to compensate the Palestinians for these territories.
The three blocs, together with the Beit El area, constitute a combined 13 percent of the West Bank.
Netanyahu wants to annex the four blocs but, according to the Israeli source, at this stage opposes compensating the Palestinians with a land swap of equal size and quality. The source added that the Palestinians had rejected the idea that Israel buys or leases some of the lands on which the settlement blocs rest. 
One of the reasons Netanyahu wants to retain Beit El reportedly is that it is the place where in the Bible Jacob fought with the angel. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has made several public remarks about Beit El (and Hebron) remaining under Israeli sovereignty. At a Likud faction meeting last week, for example, Netanyahu said that Hebron and Beit El are not part of settlement blocs, but "they are important to the Jewish people," and will not be evacuated.
The new demands of the Israeli prime minister once more make a mockery of the peace negotations that presently are being conducted by the American Secretary of State John Kerry. It is not sure, however, that everybody is sensitive to the soap like character of what is going on. There are disturbing news reports that Kerry is threatening the PA with cutting its aid package of 440 million a year if it is not ready to go along with a deal

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