As Talks Predictably Fumble, Israel Announces New Border Fences, Settlements

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) is greeted by Egypt's Ambassador Farid Munib (2nd R), Chief of Protocol, in Cairo November 3, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)

As Talks Predictably Fumble, Israel Announces New Border Fences, Settlements

Low expectations follow Secretary of State Kerry as he travels throughout Middle East region

Ahead of an upcoming visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel has announced plans to build even more settlement buildings in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and a new barrier fence along the Jordanian border.

Kerry is in the region visiting leaders in Egypt on Sunday and Saudi Arabia on Monday before heading to Jerusalem later in the week where he will meet with leaders from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"I remain hopeful, and we will make every effort in the United States to move the process forward in a fair-handed way, a balanced way that reflects the complexity of these issues," Kerry said, speaking at a news conference with Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy in Cairo on Sunday.

But the announcement of new construction plans by the Israelis amidst renewed peace negotiations has become a familiar tactic, and members of the PA were predictably scornful of the latest news.

As Al-Jazeera reports:

[Israel] has decided to build a security fence on the the border with Jordan, a report said, angering Palestinians ahead of talks with US Secretary of State.

The report published on Sunday by Israeli newspaper Maariv said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the construction started "immediately upon the completion of the fence on the Egyptian border".

A spokesman for Netanyahu refused to provide details on the plan to "strengthen barriers" or comment on the Maariv report, which was picked up by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.

The spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the reported plans.

"The Israeli premier's statements on building a wall in the Jordan Valley is only a proactive step to foil (US State) Secretary (John) Kerry's visit," Nabil Abu Rudeina told Wafa.

The announcement of the new settlement blocs last week were met with similar rebuke. As Agence France-Presse reported:

Plans to build the homes in the city's Arab sector emerged in Israeli media almost immediately after Israel freed 21 prisoners to the West Bank and another five to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Later a senior Israeli official confirmed to AFP that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Saar had "agreed on four building plans in Jerusalem".

The sequence was almost a mirror image of August 13, when a first tranche of 26 prisoners was freed and Israel announced construction of more than 2,000 new settler homes, mostly in east Jerusalem. [...]

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the move "destroys the peace process and is a message to the international community that Israel is a country that does not respect international law".

Though Kerry has continually expressed his continued hope for progress, he has remained quiet--and demanded silence from others--about the contours of the developing talks. Critics of the lop-sided U.S. allegiance to Israel, however, see nothing promising or new in what is known about Kerry's approach or Israel's willingness to end the occupation of Palestinian lands.

As longtime observer of the so-called "peace process" Jonathan Cook wrote recently:

...whatever Netanyahu has told Kerry in private, few believe the Israeli prime minister is really ready to seek peace. Earlier this month he set out in public his vision for the talks, in a follow-up to his famous speech in 2009, when, faced with a newly installed US president, Barack Obama, he agreed to a two-state solution.

This time, speaking from the same podium, he sounded in no mood for conciliation. "Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace," he said. He denied the "occupation and settlements" were causes of the conflict, and insisted on Israel's need for "extremely strong security arrangements".

It is this kind of uncompromising talk that has discredited the negotiations with everyone outside the White House.


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