Israeli minister urges settlement building following Palestinian deal

By Anees Barghouthy, Friday, April 25, 2014

Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has called for resuming settlement activities in the West Bank

Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has called for resuming settlement activities in the West Bank

RAMALLAH – Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has called for resuming settlement activities in the West Bank following a reconciliation deal between Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas.

"Israel should resume construction projects in the settlements and seek to impose its sovereignty over the areas (C) in the future," Ariel said, according to Radio Israel.

He went on to call on the Israeli government to annex Rachel's Tomb – which is known as the Bilal bin Rabah mosque to Muslims in Bethlehem – and "collect the debt owed by the Palestinian Authority".

On Thursday, the Israeli government announced the suspension of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority in response to the deal between Fatah and Hamas to heal their rift.

On Wednesday, Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement that aims to end years of division between the two factions. The deal, welcomed by most Arab states, calls for the formation of a national unity government to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary polls.

Commenting on the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, had to choose between reconciliation with Hamas and peace with Israel.

Netanyahu added that Hamas's only objective was the destruction of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

Palestinians insist that Israeli settlement building must stop before a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached.

Both the U.N. and the U.S. consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of international law.

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