Palestinians trash Netanyahu’s offer to discuss settlement borders

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Palestinians trash Netanyahu’s offer to discuss settlement borders

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the proposal to discuss the borders of settlement blocs is an attempt to legitimise the settlement.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 28 May 2015, 1:30 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:18 PM

Palestinian children play at a tent in the West Bank village of Susya, south of Hebron city. -Reuters

Occupied Jerusalem - Palestinians on Tuesday angrily dismissed reported remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would like to negotiate the future annexation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday quoted “an Israeli source” briefed on last week’s meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as saying that Netanyahu wants to resume talks with the Palestinians, with his goal being to reach understandings on the borders of settlement blocs that Israel would annex under any peace agreement.

“The prime minister explained that in this way, it would be clear what parts of the West Bank Israel could continue building in,” the newspaper reported.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the concept was “completely unacceptable”.

“Netanyahu’s proposal to discuss the borders of settlement blocs is an attempt to legitimise the settlements,” he said. “The borders that should be set are the borders of the internationally recognised state of Palestine based on 1967 borders.

“Settlements should be stopped instead of being legitimised.”

Asked about Netanyahu’s position, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said settlement activity had to stop altogether before peace talks resume and that all core issues of the conflict with Israel needed to be addressed simultaneously.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the plan attributed to Netanyahu was a disingenuous and manipulative exercise in political and legal deception. “All settlements are illegal and in flagrant contravention of international law and consensus, and any efforts to annex and to legalise the settlements blocs is a blatant attempt to steal more Palestinian land,” she said in a statement.

Netanyahu named a new rightwing coalition government earlier this month in which the pro-settlement Jewish Home party is key player.

International concern over peace prospects spiked after Netanyahu vowed during campaigning for a March general election that he would never allow the creation of a Palestinian state.

He has since sought to backtrack on the comments.

Meanwhile, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza for two days from Tuesday, Palestinian border officials said, for the first time since March.

Maher Abu Sabha, director of border crossings in the Gaza Strip, said traffic was permitted into Gaza only, to allow the return of Palestinians stranded in Egypt.

“I travelled on March 10 for eye treatment for my son, but we got stuck,” Ahmed Al Hato said.

“I just needed seven days, but they closed the crossing,” he said.

Egypt closed the crossing, the only access point to the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel, after a bombing in the Sinai Peninsula in October killed 30 of its soldiers.

It has since temporarily reopened the crossing several times.

October’s attack also led to a state of emergency and curfew being imposed in some parts of North Sinai, where security forces are battling an insurgency.

The Egyptian army has also created a wide buffer zone along the border with Gaza aimed at preventing infiltration by militants.

Despite these measures, on January 29 another 30 people were killed when rockets and a car bomb targeted a military base and other security posts in North Sinai.

Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, a militant movement affiliated to the Daesh group, has claimed most of the attacks in North Sinai, including those in October and January. 

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