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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor