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Kerry rebukes Israeli ambassador to US over legalising settlements in West Bank

February 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

US Secretary of State called the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, last week demanding an explanation about planned legalisation of four Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Tuesday.

Haaretz reported a senior Israeli official as saying that Kerry personally phoned Oren after he had received a report about the Israeli intentions to legalise the four outposts. The official said that Kerry rebuked Oren.

“Kerry said that this step would harm his efforts to revive negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and demanded that the Israeli government revise the decision or at least postpone it to sometime later on,” the official said.

The Israeli newspaper noted that such a step would usually be carried out by lesser diplomats and not by the Secretary of State himself. “But Kerry’s measures reflect just how angry he is with the Israeli decision,” the newspaper said.

Kerry is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah at the end of this week. He is also expected to return for further talks with both leaders the following week.

Palestinians call for the freezing of settlements as a precondition to the resumption of stalled negotiations. However, Israelis do not expect any breakthrough between the sides.

The Israeli movement ‘Peace Now’ filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that the Israeli government dismantle six illegal outposts built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli government told the Supreme Court that it would be going ahead with legalising four of the outposts. The Court is expected to deliver its decision regarding the case next week. It may accept either the petition to dismantle the outposts or pronounce them as legal settlements.

Israeli media reported that the response of the government to the Supreme Court came after massive pressure put on it by the Israeli settlers the government wanted to evacuate from the outposts.

International law considers Israeli settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories illegal, while Israeli law deals with the settlements set up by decisions from the government as legal and those set up arbitrary as illegal.

However, sometimes settler leaders can exert significant pressure on the government and push it to adopt settlements set up by individual decisions.