Netanyahu vows more settlement construction
Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is determined to push ahead with the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“We will continue developing in the North and the South, and certainly in Jerusalem (al-Quds),” Netanyahu said at a ceremony marking the end of Passover.
Defying widespread international calls for a freeze, Israel has been refusing to halt settlement expansion on confiscated Palestinian land, including the illegally annexed East al-Quds.
The city, which Israel occupied during the 1967 six-day war, contains several holy sites sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews with the third holiest Islamic site of al-Aqsa Mosque the flashpoint of clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters.
Tel Aviv sparked outrage among the Palestinians and the international community last month when it announced its approval of plans for 1,600 settlement units in East al-Quds.
The announcement came during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden to facilitate indirect “proximity talks” between Palestinians and Israel, infuriating even allies for undermining international peace efforts.
The decision ignited clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters in al-Quds, which flared after Israel’s controversial reopening of a long-closed synagogue near the al-Qsa Mosque compound in the Old City.
The reopening of the Hurva synangogue also raised alarm among Palestinians that Israeli would attempt to further “Judaize” al-Quds and remove the Islamic and Palestinian identity from the city which the Palestinians view as the capital of their future state.
Palestinians have ruled out any peace negotiations unless Israel heeds calls for a full and permanent freeze on all its settlement projects in the West Bank, including East al-Quds, and returns to its pre-Six-Day-War borders.