Israel will not freeze construction in any Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem, said Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in response to continued international criticism of such activity over the pre- 1967 lines in Israel’s capital.
“Anyone who dreams that the government of Israel will cave [to pressure] and limit building in Jerusalem is mistaken,” Liberman said as he met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“We are prepared to defend our independence and sovereignty and there will be no compromise to that stance,” he said.
“Any pressure to the contrary will be very counterproductive,” Liberman added.
“We will never accept any definition of building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as settlement activity.
There is broad consensus for that stand among Jews in Israel and abroad,” Liberman said.
He told Steinmeier that European foreign ministers should take this into account when they meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The left wing, the center, and the right wing in Israel won’t accept that building in Ramot or Gilo or east Talpiot is settlement building,” he said.
In response to Liberman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said settlement building over the Green Line in Jerusalem is illegal.
“We ask the international community, especially the United States and the EU, to stop this Israeli escalation,” he said.
The EU in the last months has ratcheted up its rhetoric against Israeli settlement building and is taking steps to utilize existing legislation to ban West Bank settlement products.
Left-wing activists in Europe have called on the EU to break its ties with Israel over its actions in the West Bank.
On Sunday morning the Haaretz newspaper reported that the EU is discussing possible sanctions against Israel for continued settlement activity that, in its view, crosses redlines.
Liberman told Steinmeier he believes that attempts to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Israeli bilateral ties to the EU, including to Germany, are misguided.
It does not contribute to the stability, the normalization, or the enhancement of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, Liberman said.
Steinmeier said in reply, “Avigdor Liberman, my friend, I can promise you do not need to worry about the meeting of the EU foreign ministers. I anticipate that when we meet on Monday, we’ll speak of the hope that peace can be achieved,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Steinmeier later in the afternoon and spoke against growing calls in Europe to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state. On Tuesday, the Spanish parliament is expected to hold a nonbinding vote on the question of whether to recognize Palestine as a state. The United Kingdom and Ireland have held similar nonbinding votes approving such a measure.
“The calls that have been coming from European countries, from European parliaments, to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state pushed peace backwards,” Netanyahu said.
“They don’t tell the Palestinians that they have to make their peace with a nation-state for the Jewish people. They just give the Palestinians a nation-state,” Netanyahu said.
Such moves give Palestinians the message that they do not need to make the concessions necessary for peace, Netanyahu said.
Steinmeier told Netanyahu he believes that direct negotiations are the best way to achieve peace.
He also spoke against unilateral actions in general, without specifically focusing either on Israeli construction over the pre-1967 lines or Palestinian steps to seek statehood recognition at the UN.
“Unilateral activities, I think, are not creating the ground, the atmosphere, in which perhaps another approach, another initiative from our American friends, will be successful,” he said.
When he met with Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday, Steinmeier said he did not support a unilateral recognition of Palestine as a state outside of the peace process.
During his conversation with Steinmeier and earlier in the day at the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also spoke against Palestinian incitement, particularly by Abbas and the PA.
“Abbas must stop the incitement that leads to violence,” Netanyahu said, explaining that the PA’s official media had called for a day of rage on Friday.
It’s an act, he said, that violates the pledge that Abbas made just one day earlier in Amman to take immediate steps to restore calm to Jerusalem.
“On Thursday I met in Amman with King Abdullah and US Secretary of State John Kerry. We called for the restoration of calm and quiet as well as an end to incitement and violence. I said there that you cannot stop the violence if you do not stop the incitement that leads to violence,” Netanyahu said.
Propaganda by radical Islamists and the PA is one of the roots of the militant passion against Israel, Netanyahu said.
Israel is also in the midst of a public relations battle in which it is falsely accused of trying to change the status quo with regard to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Netanyahu added.
He reiterated his position that Israel intends to maintain the status quo in which the Temple Mount remains under the administration of the Wakf (Muslim religious trust), by which only Muslims may pray there, but Jews and Christians can only visit.