Security cabinet approves completion of barrier around Jerusalem

Hotovely: PM nixed Obama talks over US aid package

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March 10, 2016 23:47
4 minute read.
Jerusalem

Installing of temporary wall between Armon Hanatziv and Jebl Mukaber in Jerusalem. (photo credit: SHLOMO MOR)

 
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The security cabinet late Thursday night approved the immediate renewal of construction work on the security barrier around the area of Jerusalem, in an effort to halt Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis.

It was one of a series of measures the cabinet took just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden flew out of Ben-Gurion Airport for Jordan.

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The security barrier has been largely frozen since 2007. Only some 470 km. of its 790-km. route has been erected. It has yet to be built around the Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim settlement blocs.

There are also gaps in the barrier around Jerusalem that need to be completed.

The US has opposed construction of the barrier in the West Bank, but while Biden was here opposition leader Issac Herzog spoke with the vice president about the need to finish it.

It’s part of an overall separation plan Herzog has been promoting for the last month by way of lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to deal with the wave of terrorism.

“Only separation will stop terrorism. If we do not separate from the Palestinians, the Jews will continue to be killed here,” he told Biden.

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The Prime Minister’s Office had no further details about the renewal of the barrier’s construction, including where the building would start or how much it would cost.

Gaps are also to be closed by the Tarkumiya checkpoint that divides the West Bank from the area of Kiryat Gat.

The security cabinet agreed to fast track legislation against those who help Palestinians to live and work illegally in the country and to make it easier to obtain permits to demolish the homes of terrorists.

Palestinian broadcasting stations that incite Palestinians against Israel will be closed, the cabinet decided.

In Ramallah on Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he is opposed to violence and extremism, but did not condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Biden spoke in Jordan with King Abdullah about ways to stop the violence that spiked amid his visit to Israel, including an attack that killed a visiting US veteran, Taylor Force, 28.

During his two days in Israel and the Palestinian territories Biden held similar conversations with Netanyahu and Abbas, without any tangible results.

The vice president’s calls to the PA to denounce terrorist attacks went unheeded.

Speaking at a press conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Johannis in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians are continuing to seek peace based on justice.

“We are against violence and extremism, regardless of its source,” Abbas said in an apparent response to demands from the US administration to condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis.

“Our hands are extended for peace based on justice and right.”

Abbas said that the ongoing status quo is “intolerable.” He said that peace and coexistence require “decisive decisions” by the Israeli government, including a freeze of settlement construction.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, who met on Thursday with Danish politicians in Jericho, accused the Israeli government of working toward “destroying the two-state solution.”

Erekat complained that Israel is imposing its dictates on the Palestinians, creating new facts on the ground, demolishing houses and carrying out ethnic cleansing and extra-judicial executions.

Erekat called for the release of Palestinian legislators and activists held by Israel, including Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti, Hamas’s Hassan Yusef, the PFLP’s Ahmed Sadat and female parliament member Khalida Jarrar.

Separately, as Biden left Israel controversy swirled again over the relationship between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that Netanyahu canceled his meeting with Obama because the two countries are still working out the details of a 10-year American defense package for Israel.

Netanyahu had initially requested and then turned down a meeting with Obama toward the end of the month. His office had said he canceled out of fear he might be forced to meet with presidential candidates and then would be seen as interfering in the election.

But Hotovely said, “There was a decision not to go to the president as long the agreement over the compensation package is not concluded.”

While in Israel, Biden urged Netanyahu to come to an agreement with Obama about the aid package before the president leaves office in January 2017. He warned that the next president might not be as generous.

Current US military grants to Israel, worth about $3 billion annually, expire in 2018.

Israel, which last year requested $5b. in future annual aid but whose officials have since set their sights on $4b. to $4.5b., says it needs to expand its military, rather than just upgrade technologies, given spiraling arms procurement it anticipates by archfoe Iran and Arab states.

US officials have given lower target figures of around $3.7b.

The dispute prompted Israeli officials to hint that Netanyahu may bank on Obama’s successor for a better deal.

“The prime minister wants to honor the US president by going when there is a basis, good news on the matter of the US aid package,” she said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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