The Quartet’s new initiative to relaunch peace talks could be threatened by
initial plans to build 1,100 housing units in the Jewish east Jerusalem
neighborhood of Gilo, European and United States diplomats told Israel over Rosh
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu that she “lacked any comprehension for the approval of new
construction plans for Gilo near Jerusalem, just days after the Quartet
declaration [calling for a new peace plan] had been passed,” according to a
statement put on Friday by the German government spokesman Steffen
'Gilo a neighborhood in heart of J'lem, not a settlement'
Clinton: Gilo construction counter-productive to peace
The advancement of the Gilo housing plans “raised doubts over
whether the Israeli government was interested in the resumption of serious
negotiations, Merkel told Netanyahu. “What now counted was to dispel such
doubts,” according to the statement.
Announcement of the Gilo plans last
week came in amid a new push by the Quartet to bring the Palestinians back to
the negotiating table with Israel within 30 days, so the two sides can reach a
finalstatus agreement within 15 months, by December 2012.
phone conversation, Merkel urged the prime minister to refrain from provocative
action and to resume negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahamoud
Abbas on the basis of the new Quartet plan.
French Foreign Minister Alain
Juppe and his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, said on Saturday that the
new Quartet initiative had failed to relaunch negotiations, according to media
They called on both sides to begin talks.
criticized the Gilo construction and added that it gave the Palestinians an
excuse not to accept the initiative, according to the reports.
Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Quartet plan was
“counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the
“As you know, we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind
of action which could undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly
in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative by either side,”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Wednesday
echoed Clinton’s words when she told
reporters that such plans were “counterproductive.”
Nuland added that
Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren had discussed the Gilo construction
with US officials.
Israeli officials said that since then there had been
a certain amount of diplomatic traffic on this issue.
In a pre-Rosh
Hashana interview with The Jerusalem Post
, Netanyahu defended the Gilo
construction, saying that the US was aware of the plans and that there was
nothing new in Jewish building in the capital.
“We plan in
Jerusalem. We build in Jerusalem. Period. The same way Israeli
governments have been doing for 44 years, since the end of the 1967
war. We build in Jewish neighborhoods, the Arabs build in Arab
neighborhoods, that is the way the life of this city goes on and develops for
its Jewish and non- Jewish residents alike,” the prime minister said.
Saturday night, his spokesman Mark Regev expanded on Netanyahu’s words to the
“Gilo is not a settlement and it is definitely not an outpost. It
is a Jerusalem neighborhood that is 10 minutes away from the center of the
city,” Regev said.
Every peace plan put forward for the past 18 years,
including the Clinton parameters of 2000 and the Geneva Initiative, has stated
that Gilo will remain part of Israel in a final-status agreement,” he
“Every Israeli government since 1967 has built in the Jewish
neighborhoods of [east] Jerusalem.”
So advancing plans for additional
construction in Gilo does not reflect a change in policy, Regev added. “There is
no contradiction between this preliminary planning decision and our desire to
move forward to a two-state solution for two peoples,” he said.
Palestinian have said that they will not negotiate with Israel until it halts
Jewish construction in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. Israel has said that
will to talks at any time, without any conditions, and has urged the
Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Netanyahu has said he
favors the Quartet proposal but that he won’t issue a formal statement until he
has finished consulting with his senior ministers.
He convened the inner
cabinet of eight ministers on Tuesday evening to discuss the Quartet’s proposal,
and plans to hold an additional meeting with them.
No formal statement
has yet been issued on the matter.
Although diplomatic officials have
said that the Palestinians rejected the proposal, the PA on Saturday said that
it wanted clarification and has not dismissed the matter.
said over the weekend that while the proposal contained “encouraging elements,”
they want the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – to provide further
clarifications regarding the “terms of reference” for the peace process and the
issue of construction in the settlements.
The Israeli and Palestinian
consultations regarding the Quartet proposal come as the Palestinians have
sought to bypass talks by seeking unilateral recognition of statehood through
the United Nations.
Last month, they submitted their request to become a
member state of the UN to the Security Council.
The council’s review
panel met on Friday to consider that bid.
The Palestinians needs nine
votes in the 15-member Security Council.
The US has said that it would
veto the membership request should it pass the council, but that it would prefer
to see enough countries vote against the measure, or to abstain, to make a veto
The government has assumed that France, Germany, Bosnia,
Columbia and Portugal would not support the Palestinian bid for UN membership,
or at the very least, that they would abstain from the vote. Bosnia, Gabon and
Nigeria are considered to be swing votes. The Palestinians have counted China in
their corner even though it told the UN General Assembly last week that it
supported a negotiated solution to the conflict.
At a press conference
with Clinton on Tuesday in Washington, Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas
said, “This is my scenario: Negotiations to solve everything that must be
solved. So I think it is the chance of a negotiation, and the chance is given by
United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia, who are the members of
the Quartet, who are the key story in this moment.”