U.S. getting tougher with Israel over settlements

May 10, 2016

The United States will endorse a tougher tone with Israel in an upcoming international report that takes Tel Aviv to task over settlements, demolitions and property seizures on land the Palestinians claim for a future state, diplomats told The Associated Press.

The U.S. and its fellow Mideast mediators also will chastise Palestinian leaders for failing to rein in anti-Israeli violence. But the diplomats involved in drafting the document said its primary focus will be a surge of construction in settlers housing in the West Bank and east al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The U.S. approval of the harsh language marks a subtle shift. Washington has traditionally tempered statements by the so-called “Quartet” of mediators with careful diplomatic language, but the diplomats said the U.S. in this case will align itself closer to the positions of the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, who emphasize Israel's role in the Mideast impasse.

The report's release is sure to infuriate Israel, where officials are already bracing for expected criticism. And on the other side, although the mediators will endorse some long-standing Palestinian complaints, the Palestinians are likely to complain the report does not go far enough.

Diplomats acknowledge the report, which could come out in late May or June, will be largely symbolic, requiring no action. It could be unveiled at the UN and possibly sent to the Security Council for an endorsement, according to the diplomats, who included three U.S. officials. They all demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the unfinished work publicly.

The diplomats said the report is intended to highlight obstacles to a two-state peace agreement — the stated goal of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders — and offer recommendations for restarting negotiations in a process that is stalled.

Another diplomat said Israel will be put “on notice” that its appropriation of land isn't going unnoticed.

The document won't look only at east al-Quds activity and West Bank settlement construction, but also at a “problematic trend” of legalizing smaller so-called outposts, the officials said. In addition, it will criticize Israel for a growing backlog of housing block approvals.
(Source: AP)
 

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