x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Netanyahu: Jewish neighbourhoods part of peace deal

Speaking to pro-Israel activists, Mr Netanyahu claims Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem will be part of Israel in any peace deal

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WASHINGTON // The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has the right to build in Jerusalem, saying the city is "not a settlement". Speaking to pro-Israel activists, Mr Netanyahu said today that Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem will remain part of Israel in any peace deal, so building there does not compromise an agreement. Israel recently announced new housing plans for east Jerusalem, drawing sharp criticism from the Obama administration.

The secretary of state Hillary Clinton reiterated that criticism in her own speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday. Both Israel and the US indicate the spat is behind them and want to launch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks quickly. Ms Clinton called the announcement "insulting" and demanded that Mr Netanyahu outline specific steps to restore confidence in the peace process - something both sides say he has now done, although neither has released specifics. Ms Clinton, in a speech to the influential pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group on Washington yesterday, said Israel faced "difficult but necessary choices" on Mideast peace and called Israel's settlement policy a problem. "New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need," Ms Clinton said. "It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America's unique ability to play a role - an essential role, I might add - in the peace process." A senior Republican member of the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, criticised the Obama administration's firm line on Israeli settlements, highlighting what could become an emotive issue in this year's US congressional elections. "Now is not the time to be picking fights with Israel in what seems to be an attempt to curry favour with the Arab world," Mr Cantor, the No 2 House Republican, said in a speech to AIPAC. "Let's face it. Israel is not the problem. From Yemen to Afghanistan to Pakistan, terrorists are not going to lay down their arms against America if we abandon Israel," he added. * Reuters and AP