Middle East: Defiant Settlers Arrested on West Bank

Wednesday the mayor of a West Bank Jewish settlement was arrested by Israeli police after protesters blocked security forces from entering the community to enforce a construction freeze.

The showdown was the most serious incident of settler unrest since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week announced the 10-month building freeze, which bars the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.

Settler leaders have vowed to defy the order, which Netanyahu says is meant as a confidence-building gesture to get peace efforts with the Palestinians back on track.

Confronting the settlers could help Netanyahu persuade skeptical Palestinians and a wary Obama administration that he's serious about resuming talks. The Palestinians are refusing to talk peace with Netanyahu and say his settlement freeze is a sham because it excludes certain projects as well as east Jerusalem, The Associated Press reports.

In the meantime, Israel's top official at the United Nations charged the General Assembly on Tuesday with undermining efforts toward a two-state solution by embracing a one-sided condemnation of Israel during the UN's "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People."

In response to bruising speeches against Israel at the United Nations during the two-day event on Monday and Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev recalled the 1947 vote that paved the way for the creation of two states.

"Thirty-three for. Thirteen against. Ten abstentions. The resolution was approved," she said.

While the Jewish population in the region accepted the resolution, the Arab side rejected UN Resolution 181, launching a war against Israel and setting the stage for the current conflict, Jerusalem Post reports.

"This resolution shows that what Israel does is never enough, and the onus is only on us," the senior Israeli diplomat said. "It shows that the Palestinians want to get an agreement without having to go through negotiations."

The official said the draft conclusion represented a near-full acceptance of the Palestinian narrative, including the Palestinian stand on east Jerusalem, their demand for a return to the 1967 lines and the call to remove the security barrier. The draft does not, he said, take into consideration Israel's concerns such as security, the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state or the insistence that Palestinian refugees be repatriated to a future Palestinian state, and not to Israel.

"They don't mention our issues, and when we bring them up, they say only that these will be dealt with during the negotiations," the diplomat said. "However, the Palestinian issues they put in the conclusions - those issues don't have to be negotiated."

An EU official said that the proposal was an attempt to encourage the Palestinians back to the negotiation table, signaling that if they do return to the talks - despite Netanyahu's declarations that Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem - the EU would side with the PA on key issues, Jerusalem Post reports.

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