Angela Merkel reads Benjamin Netanyahu the riot act over settlement plan

 

Jerusalem

Israel has infuriated its most reliable West European ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, by announcing expansion of a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem in defiance of a US-backed warning to both parties in the Middle East conflict to avoid "provocative actions".

Ms Merkel's anger, expressed in unequivocal terms in a personal telephone call to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was all the greater because of the prodigious efforts she had made on Israel's behalf to thwart the Palestinians' UN recognition bid and persuade Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to re-enter direct negotiations.

Israel yesterday formally accepted – albeit with "some concerns" – the statement by the international Quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN calling on both sides to hold direct talks. But the decision to build around 1,000 new homes in the Gilo settlement came as the Palestinian leadership was still deliberating on whether to do so. In the event, the Palestinians have stuck to their line that while there were encouraging elements in the Quartet's statement, they will not agree to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze. Mr Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa yesterday that "returning to negotiations requires the commitment of Israel to halt settlement activities and to recognise the 1967 borders without any equivocation".

While that might have been the Palestinian position without the Gilo announcement, the expansion plan – condemned by the US and the EU – was widely seen by Western diplomats as a singularly ill-timed provocation, given the already extreme difficulty of persuading Palestinian leaders that talks with Mr Netanyahu would make any progress.

Ms Merkel was said by her spokesman Steffen Seibert, after her telephone call on Friday to Mr Netanyahu, to have had "absolutely no understanding" of how the expansion plan was allowed to go ahead. Mr Netanyahu had told the Jerusalem Post ahead of the Interior Ministry decision that he had no intention of intervening in it. An unnamed Israeli official was quoted in Haaretz yesterday as suggesting that a consequence of the row might be that Germany would change its mind and decide to support the proposal of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to upgrade the Palestinians' UN status to that of "a non-member state".

One option remains for the Palestinians to seek such status through the UN General Assembly if it fails to command the required nine state majority at the UN Security Council for full membership.

While the Quartet statement did not call for a settlement freeze, it did reaffirm the 2003 internationally agreed Road Map which called for a complete halt to settlement building and also referred to the Arab Peace Initiative, which specified that a Palestinian state should be based on 1967 borders.

Mr Netanyahu was said to have maintained to Ms Merkel that Gilo was an integral Jerusalem "neighbourhood" and that both sides had accepted in all previous negotiations that Gilo would fall within Israel if an agreement was reached. Most of the international community, including Britain, regards Gilo as built on territory occupied and then illegally annexed by Israel after 1967 and holds that fresh settlement building pre-empts future negotiations on a Palestinian state, which should have East Jerusalem as its capital.

Meanwhile, the hardline nationalist Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, repeated Mr Netanyahu's line to reporters on a tour of Gilo yesterday, but also added that "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and cannot and will not be divided. [Gilo] is part and parcel of Jerusalem now and forever."

He added: "We have the highest appreciation and admiration for Angela Merkel. Germany has been among the best friends of Israel. But it is important for people to come here and see for themselves."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little