Obama Toughens His Remarks on Israeli Settlements

Palestinian leaders are warning Israel that its approval of the new housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem may put an end to the peace talks. The warning came after the United States condemned the Israeli decision. The Palestinians want Washington to toughen its approach on Israel.

The response from Palestinian officials contained no surprises after Israel said this week it would go ahead with construction of 900 new units in Gilo, a Jewish community in East Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told VOA the action threatens to kill the peace process.

"This is a clear decision and a clear message, not just for Palestinains but for the American administration itself that Israel is not willing and is not ready to stop settlement activities and much more important than this, that they are not ready for peace," said Rudeineh, Voice of America reports.

Meanwhile, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs has said “We are dismayed at the Jerusalem planning committee’s decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem.”

The Obama administration could have been a lot less dismayed and actually showed some success on the world stage vis a vis Israel/Palestine if they had started by trying for something realistic. Instead this crowd of amateurs blundered into the area, acting as if they knew nothing about the past fifteen years and about the brutal civil war splitting the Palestinian territories.

The Obama folks roared in imperiously, made an excruciating difficult demand of the Israelis, no corresponding demand of Fatah party president Mahmoud Abbas, all at a time when Israel has even less room to manoeuvre than usual. It is like asking a man on a tiny life raft to throw his paltry food stores overboard to feed circling sharks, Telegraph.co.uk reports.

It was also reported, Washington based-analyst Haim Malka said that Obama has toughened his remarks on settlements in the occupied West Bank, but it is "unclear at this point" whether it will bring results.

Israel plans to build 900 new homes in Gilo, one of a dozen illegal Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the Palestinian Holy City, which Israel has annexed in a move slammed by the international community.

Israeli news reports said Netanyahu had rejected a request from his US ally to halt construction in Gilo, but it was not clear whether the request concerned the project approved on Tuesday night.

Shibley Telhami, a Middle East analyst at the University of Maryland, said Obama had to make a strong statement on the Gilo project, Middle East Online reports.

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