Israeli Troops Kidnap Ten More Palestinians
Israeli forces have abducted ten more Palestinians in various parts of the West Bank as Tel Aviv continues a kidnapping campaign to silence activists.
The civilians were arrested Wednesday during operations in the city of Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and Hebron.
Israeli sources claim that the detainees were wanted activists and were abducted to be interrogated.
In spite of a security agreement with the Palestinian National Authority, the Israeli army continues to carry out such operations.
Hundreds of Palestinian residents of West Bank cities, including teenagers, have been kidnapped over the last month.
Currently there are more than 11,500 Palestinians, including women and children, held in Israeli jails and are reportedly suffering harsh conditions.
Israel must stop settlement construction, start working toward a two-state solution, and allow free movement for Palestinians, the US vice president says.
Joe Biden, addressing 6,500 delegates at the annual conference of the influential Israel lobby – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – on Tuesday said that a necessary step should be taken toward ending the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Calling on Israel to move forward, Biden stated, “Israel has to work toward a two-state solution. You’re not going to like my saying this, but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement.”
His call comes as President Barack Obama prepares for a private meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the expansion of Jewish settlements on Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, and, upon assuming office, he rejected previous Israeli commitments to a two-state solution, instead calling for Palestinian “self-rule”.
His comments have cast serious doubt on the future of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Last month foreign ministers of the European Union said that the bloc’s ties with Israel might deteriorate if Netanyahu’s government ditches the two-state solution for ending the conflict with the Palestinians.
But Netanyahu recently said that he would abide by the commitments of previous governments and suggested he was avoiding the reference to avoid friction with partners in his conservative coalition.
Netanyahu was referring to his coalition partner, the Russian immigrant Avigdor Lieberman, who has been appointed as the foreign minister. In a speech on April 1, Avigdor rejected the past year of US-led negotiations and said that a previous commitment Israel made to Palestinian statehood “had no validity”.
“Whoever thinks that through concessions peace will be achieved is mistaken. He is only inviting pressure and more wars,” stated Lieberman, whose frankness astonished Israel’s allies.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Biden indirectly blamed Arab states for the continuing violence after the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2000.
He asked Arab states to make ‘meaningful gestures’ toward ending Israel’s isolation ahead of the first top-level US-Israel talks. He also said that the Arab states should support and fund Palestinian security organizations and other institutions in the West Bank.
He urged the Arab states to start “treating Israel like a normal country, ending the boycott, letting El Al fly over their countries and meeting Israeli leaders.”
Biden ended his speech by calling for Palestinians to immediately and unconditionally release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held as a prisoner of war by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for nearly three years.
He said nothing about the fate of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli internment camps, nor did he agree to hold talks with the democratically-elected Palestinian government led by Hamas that runs the Gaza Strip, nor did he call on Israel to lift its crippling blockade on the pauperized residents of Gaza.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday that restarting Middle East peace talks is urgent and that building new Israeli settlements must end.
Kouchner delivered the message while meeting with Lieberman on his first tour of Europe since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government took office April 1.
Kouchner recalled the expectations of France, in particular the creation of a viable Palestinian state coexisting in peace and security with Israel, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the talks. He also asked for a complete halt to settlement building, the statement said. >>>
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that a two-state solution was the only path to peace in the Middle East and urged the new Israeli government to move quickly to begin talks with the Palestinians.
Merkel was speaking ahead of a visit to Berlin on Thursday by ultranationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has voiced opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“As far as Middle East peace is concerned, we want to continue to focus on a two-state solution,” Merkel told reporters at a joint newsconference with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
She described the coming months as “decisive” and said progress between Israel and the Palestinians was essential for the success of western efforts to reach a deal with Iran over its disputed nuclear program. >>>
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