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article imageIsrael delays settlement announcement for John Kerry visit

By Layne Weiss     Jan 1, 2014 in World
Ramallah - The Israeli government will delay an announcement on the construction of new settlements while US Secretary of State John Kerry visits the region.
According to The NY Times, Mr. Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel Thursday and will stay until Sunday at least. This will be his 10th visit to the region as Secretary of State.
"We will respect John Kerry and not act to spite him,” an Israeli official said, adding that there was an understanding between the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Housing Ministry that no bids would be issued until Mr. Kerry leaves.
The official said that when it comes to settlement building, “a day here or there makes no difference." The official spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the "delicate diplomacy" surrounding the issue.
Palestinian leaders have condemned Israel's announcements of the construction of new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories which Israel seized from Jordan in 1967. The Palestinians view this land as part of their future state. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the construction of more Jewish settlements "undermines any chance of peace" and Palestinians say that should peace talks fail, they plan to fight in the International Criminal Court. According to most of the world, the settlements are illegal under international law.
The Obama administration deems the settlements "illegitimate" and an "obstacle to peace."
Relations between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Washington have been icy. In March 2010, in a move that particularly angered the White House, Israel's Interior Ministry announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units for Jews in the ultra-Orthodox of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.
Recently, Mr. Netanyahu has been tying in the announcement of new settlements with the release of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians are enraged by the linkage of prisoner releases and the announcements of new settlements.
The PLO's Xavier Abu Eid says Israel is "under obligation to cease all settlement activities, not for one or two days, but forever." He said delaying the announcement of new settlements for a few days will help John Kerry avoid embarrassment, but it will not help the Palestinians or the peace process.
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