An Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has come into effect early on Friday, May 21.
The ceasefire brings to an end 11 days of fighting in which more than 250 people were killed, most of them in Gaza.
Palestinians poured on to the streets of Gaza soon after the truce began, while a Hamas official warned the group had not let down its guard.
Both Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have claimed victory in the conflict.
President Joe Biden said the ceasefire had brought a “genuine opportunity” for progress.
Soon after the ceasefire started at 02:00 on May 21, large numbers of Palestinians took to the streets in cars and on foot to celebrate. In Gaza, drivers honked their horns, while loudspeakers from mosques pronounced “the victory of the resistance”.
Israel’s military said it was removing nearly all emergency restrictions on movement throughout the country.
Fighting broke out on May 10 after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in occupied East Jerusalem that culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.
At least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry. Israel has said it killed at least 225 militants during the fighting. Hamas has not given casualty figures for fighters.
In Israel, 12 people, including two children, were killed, its medical service says.
The Israeli military says more than 4,300 rockets were fired towards its territory by militants and that it struck more than 1,000 militant targets in Gaza.
The Israeli Political Security Cabinet said on May 20 it had “unanimously accepted the recommendation” for a ceasefire.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism from some in Israel who said he had halted the conflict too soon. The mayors of Sderot and Ashkelon – two of the Israeli towns hardest hit by rockets from Gaza – were among those to voice their disappointment, saying Hamas should have been eliminated.
At a news conference on May 21, PM Netanyahu said Israel had “exacted a heavy price from Hamas”.
A Hamas official told the Associated Press the ceasefire announced by Israel amounted to a “victory” for the Palestinian people.
This view was shared by people celebrating on the streets of Gaza.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “continue to respond forcefully” to rocket attacks as conflict with Palestinians in Gaza enters a seventh day.
Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed at least three Palestinians early on May 16, health officials said.
Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Tel Aviv, causing people there to flee to bomb shelters.
The international community has called for an end to the escalating conflict.
On May 15, President Joe Biden phoned PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express concern about the situation.
A UN Security Council meeting is set to take place later on May 16.
Since the fighting began on May 10 at least 148 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, and Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children. Israel says dozens of militants are among the dead in Gaza, while Palestinian health officials say their death toll includes 41 children.
Speaking in a TV address late on May 15, PM Netanyahu said the strikes would continue for “as long as necessary” and that everything possible was being done to limit civilian casualties.
“The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it’s those attacking us,” he said.
The flare-up of violence over the last six days came after weeks of increasing Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem, which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.
Ten members of one family were killed by an Israeli air strike at a refugee camp west of Gaza City.
A five-month-old baby, Omar Al-Hadidi, was the only survivor, after his mother, four siblings, aunt and four cousins died.
The baby’s father, Mohammad Al-Hadidi, was not at home at the time.
“There were no rockets there, just women and children, no rockets, just peaceful children celebrating [Muslim festival] Eid, what have they done to deserve this?” he told Reuters.
A doctor treating Omar said: “He was in a bad condition. His thigh bone is broken and he has bruises all over his body but thankfully after first inspection he is stable.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Palestinian militants had launched 278 rockets from Gaza, with homes hit in the southern cities of Ashdod, Beersheba and Sderot.
The IDF also said “many dozens” of rockets that crossed into Israel had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
A rocket hit a street in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, killing a man. He was reportedly hit by shrapnel in his apartment.
On May 15, an Israeli air strike destroyed a high-rise building housing media organizations, including The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, plus a number of offices and apartments.
In a statement released shortly afterwards, the Israeli military said the building had housed military assets belonging to Hamas. The building’s landlord has denied this.
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike on the building.
“The secretary-general reminds all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs,” his spokesman said.
The AP said the block had been hit roughly an hour after Israeli forces ordered people to evacuate.
The news organization’s CEO, Gary Pruitt, said: “This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time.”
The UN fears a “full-scale war” after the deadly exchange of fire between Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military has escalated significantly.
More than 1,000 rockets have now been fired by Palestinian militants over 38 hours, Israel said, most at Tel Aviv.
Israel has carried out deadly air strikes, bringing down two tower blocks in Gaza on May 11.
Israeli Arabs have also staged violent protests in a number of Israeli towns.
The city of Lod, near Tel Aviv, has been put under a state of emergency.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” by the ongoing violence.
Six Israelis have died and in Gaza at least 43 Palestinians, including 13 children, have been killed since May 10, the health ministry said.
The latest fatality was an Israeli citizen, who was killed when an anti-tank guided missile, fired from the northern Gaza Strip, struck a jeep on the border. Two other people were injured.
The fighting follows weeks of rising tension stoked by violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a site in Jerusalem that is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Israel’s military says this is the biggest exchange since 2014.
Of the 1,050 rockets and mortar shells that have now been fired from Gaza, 850 had landed in Israel or were intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system, and 200 failed to clear the border and landed back in Gaza, the Israeli army said.
Video footage from the city showed rockets streaking through the night sky, some exploding as they were hit by Israeli interceptor missiles.
Loud booms and air-raid sirens were heard across targeted cities, which included Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Modiin, and the southern city of Beersheba, as Palestinian militants tried to overwhelm missile defenses.
The rocket fire escalated after the two residential tower blocks were brought down in Gaza. Israel said it was targeting rocket launch sites, high-rise buildings, homes and offices used by Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza.
Hamas said it was incensed by the “the enemy’s targeting of residential towers”.
Residents had been warned to evacuate the buildings before the fighter jets attacked, however health officials said there were still civilians deaths.
US state department spokesman, Ned Price said Israel had the right to defend itself but the Palestinian people also had the right to safety and security.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Israeli strikes were “just the beginning”.
“Terror organizations have been hit hard and will continue to be hit because of their decision to hit Israel,” he said.
“We’ll return peace and quiet, for the long term.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised address: “If [Israel] wants to escalate, we are ready for it, and if it wants to stop, we’re also ready.”
Protests by Israeli Arabs in Lod escalated to full-scale rioting, with protesters throwing rocks at police, who responded with stun grenades.
A 52-year-old father and his 16-year-old daughter reportedly died when a rocket hit their car, with a number of other people injured in clashes, Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The violence caused Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to declared a state of emergency in Lod on May 11. It was the first time the government had used emergency powers over an Arab community since 1966, The Times of Israel said.
PM Netanyahu, who went to the city to call for calm, said he would impose a curfew if necessary.
Israeli media reported that synagogues and several businesses had been set on fire, while Reuters said there were reports a car driven by an Arab resident had been stoned.
Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international hub and one of the country’s busiest, briefly halted flights on May 11 and an energy pipeline between the cities of Eilat and Ashkelon was hit.
There has also been unrest in other cities with a large Israeli Arab population, as well as in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Thousands of Palestinian protesters
held a “day of rage” in the Gaza Strip on January 28, while the
Israeli military deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank.
The blueprint, which aims to solve
one of the world’s longest-running conflicts, was drafted under the stewardship
of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Standing alongside Israeli PM
Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump said his
proposals “could be the last opportunity” for Palestinians.
Reports said Benjamin Netanyahu was
planning to press ahead with annexing 30% of the occupied West Bank, with a
cabinet vote due on February 2.
Israel has settled about 400,000
Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel
Speaking on Tuesday, President
Mahmoud Abbas said it was “impossible for any Palestinian, Arab, Muslim or
Christian child to accept” a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its
He said: “We say a thousand times, no, no, no.
“We rejected this deal from the start and our stance
The militant Palestinian Islamist
group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also rejected the deal which it
said aimed “to liquidate the Palestinian national project”.
The UN said it remained committed to
a two-state solution based on the boundaries in place before the 1967 war, when
Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu described President Trump’s plan as the “deal of
Israel “will not miss this opportunity”, he said.
“May God bless us all with security, prosperity and peace!” the Israeli prime minister added.
A ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has been
agreed between Palestinian militants and Israel after a weekend during which
Palestinians launched hundreds of rockets into Israel prompting retaliatory air
and artillery strikes.
At least four Israelis and 23
Palestinians were killed.
Israel has not confirmed the
ceasefire. However, reports say emergency measures have been lifted in southern
The violence flared up on May 3
during a protest against the blockade of Gaza.
A TV station run by Hamas – the
militant movement which controls Gaza – announced that both sides had agreed
the ceasefire, beginning at 04:30 local time.
Egypt is said to have brokered it –
assisted by the UN and Qatar.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has
not mentioned the ceasefire. However, the Times
of Israel said that protective restrictions imposed on residents in
southern Israel since the flare up began were being lifted, including schools
The Israeli parliament has approved a controversial bill characterizing the country as principally a Jewish state, fuelling anger among its Arab minority.
The so-called “nation state” law says Jews have a unique right to national self-determination there and puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language.
Arab lawmakers reacted furiously in parliament, with one waving a black flag and another ripping up the bill.
Om Benjamin Netanyahu praised the law’s passage as a “defining moment”.
He said: “A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”
Among its 11 provisions, the Basic Law describes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is “unique to the Jewish people”.
The law also reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city as the “complete and united… capital of Israel”.
Controversially, the law singles out Hebrew as the “state’s language”, effectively prioritizing it above Arabic which has for decades been recognized as an official language alongside Hebrew.
The law ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed.
In one of its clauses, the law stresses the importance of “development of Jewish settlement as a national value”, though it is unclear whether this also alludes to settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The bill has been under discussion since it was first introduced in 2011 and has undergone multiple amendments, with the final version watering down or dropping altogether sections regarded as discriminatory.
Israel has no constitution but instead passed over time a series of Basic Laws which have constitutional status. The nation state law is the 14th such basic law.
The issue of Israel as a Jewish state has become increasingly important in recent years and a key dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Israeli prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in any final peace settlement. Benjamin Netanyahu argues that the Palestinians’ refusal to do so is the biggest obstacle to peace, saying it demonstrates that the Palestinians do not genuinely recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, arguing that the Palestinians have long recognized the State of Israel and should not be expected to go further.
The law is important because it is hugely symbolic, and according to Israel’s large Arab minority, evidence that Israel is downgrading their status.
Israeli Arabs, many of whom identify as or with Palestinians, comprise about 20% of Israel’s 9 million-strong population.
Arabs have equal rights under the law but have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provision than Israeli Jews when it comes to services such as education, health and housing.
Israel is often accused by its fiercest critics of practicing a system akin to apartheid against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israel vehemently rejects the allegation as a smear tactic used by those who reject its very right to exist.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he expects EU countries to follow the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as his country’s capital.
Benjamin Netanyahu is in Brussels for talks – the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited the city in more than 20 years.
However, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini says the bloc’s stance on the matter is unchanged.
President Donald Trump’s move has left the US isolated on a highly sensitive issue between Israel and the Palestinians.
Arriving in Brussels, PM Benjamin Netanyahu again welcomed the announcement, saying Jerusalem had been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and President Trump had put “facts squarely on the table”.
He added: “I believe that all, or most, European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”
As well as recognizing Jerusalem, President Donald Trump also said he was directing the state department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
However, Federica Mogherini said the EU would continue to recognize the “international consensus” on Jerusalem.
“We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both.”
Federica Mogherini also condemned “all attacks on Jews everywhere in the world”.
Before heading to Brussels, Benjamin Netanyahu met France’s President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, who urged him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians.
Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized internationally, and all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.
Jerusalem is also home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.
President Trump’s announcement drew worldwide condemnation and sparked fierce protests which again flared on December 10.
In Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, police used tear gas to stop demonstrators reaching the US embassy, while in Jerusalem itself, a Palestinian was arrested after stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli security guard.
A burning object was thrown at a synagogue in the Swedish city of Gothenburg on December 9 in what police said was a failed arson attempt.
Ayoub Kara said cable TV providers had agreed to take the network off the air, but that closing its Jerusalem bureau would need further legislation.
“Al Jazeera has become the main tool of Daesh [ISIS], Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran,” he told a news conference.
PM Netanyahu tweeted his congratulations to Ayoub Kara, “who on my instructions took concrete steps to end Al Jazeera’s incitement”.
An Al Jazeera official in the Qatari capital Doha told AFP that the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East, and considers what it has done is dangerous”.
Benjamin Netanyahu had accused the pan-Arab TV channel of fuelling a recent crisis around a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
New security measures imposed by Israel after two policemen were killed nearby sparked protests by Palestinians, and the Israeli government eventually removed the security apparatus, which included metal detectors.
The prime minister vowed in late July to “expel Al Jazeera” for its reporting of the issue, which he said had incited violence.
The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was “professional and objective”.
The network’s editor in Jerusalem has accused PM Netanyahu of collusion with his autocratic Arab neighbors in an attack on free and independent media.
Al Jazeera has come under attack from several governments in the region in recent months to the concern of free press campaigners.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan both shut Al Jazeera offices as a measure against Qatar.
Others, including the UAE and Bahrain, have blocked its channel and websites.
Israel’s communications ministry said on August 6 that “nearly all countries in the region… have concluded that Al Jazeera incites terrorism and religious extremism”.
The ministry added that it had become “ridiculous that the channel continued to broadcast from Israel”.
Shutting Al Jazeera was on a list of 13 demands by the four Arab nations leading a boycott of Qatar that were tabled in June.
The Arabic-language news channel first launched in 1996, and shook up the media landscape in the Middle East by airing criticisms of governments and rulers in the region.
Al Jazeera says it was the first Arabic channel to feature Israeli politicians and commentators on the air.
However, Israel has frequently accused it of being biased in reporting the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
In Israel, Donald Trump will hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the course of his two-day stop.
He has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “the ultimate deal”, but has been vague about what form it should take.
Donald Trump has said he prefers to leave it to both sides to decide between them in direct talks.
According to the Associated Press and Israel’s Haaretz, President Trump’s flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel was likely to be the first between the two countries, that have no diplomatic relations.
Image source Reuters
The president has been widely seen as considerably more supportive of Israel than his predecessor, Barack Obama. Donald Trump has taken a softer position on the contentious issue of Israeli settlements, suggesting that their expansion rather than their presence might hamper the search for peace.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land Palestinians claim for a future state.
President Trump has also sent mixed signals on the issue of Jerusalem, pledging to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, angering Palestinians and delighting Israelis.
However, he has since stalled, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently telling NBC News that President Trump was weighing it up.
Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the east as their capital. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
There has been some consternation in Israel in the run-up to President Trump’s trip over remarks made by administration officials.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Rex Tillerson’s suggestion that moving the embassy might harm the peace process, while a US Consulate official caused outrage by saying the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, was “not in your [Israel’s] territory but part of the West Bank”.
The White House later said: “The Western Wall is in Jerusalem… such alleged statements would not have been authorized by the White House, [and] do not reflect the US position, and certainly not the president’s position.”
President Trump is expected to visit the Western Wall, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, in a private capacity on May 22 – the first sitting US president to do so.
Donald Trump will also visit the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where according to Christian tradition Jesus was buried and resurrected.
His trip also comes days after it was reported that the president had leaked to Russia’s foreign minister classified intelligence information said to have come from an Israeli source. The incident has raised questions about the confidentiality of secret intelligence passed to the US by its closest Middle Eastern ally.
A huge security operation is under way for Donald Trump’s visit, during which he will hold separate meetings with PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 22 and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem the following day.
A day before Donald Trump was due to arrive, Israel’s announced economic and development concessions for Palestinians, including easing some restrictions on movement and approving industrial construction projects.
The UN has condemned Israeli plans to build more settlements in the occupied West Bank.
According to UN spokesman, “unilateral actions” were an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.
On January 24, PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would build 2,500 more homes in Jewish settlements “in response to housing needs”.
It is the second such announcement by the Israeli authorities since President Donald Trump took office on January 20.
Palestinian officials said the plans undermined peace hopes by building on land they want for a future state.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, said: “For the secretary general there is no Plan B for the two-states solution.
“In this respect any unilateral decision that can be an obstacle to the two-state goal is of grave concern for the secretary general.
“There is a need for the two parties to engage in a bona fide negotiation to reach the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, two states for two people.”
Donald Trump has indicated that he will be more sympathetic to settlement construction than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has appointed a staunch settlement supporter as his ambassador to Israel.
Image source Wikimedia
Last month, he criticized President Barack Obama for declining to veto a UN Security Council resolution which demanded Israel immediately cease all settlement activities and warned they were “dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution”.
About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
Most of the new homes approved on January 24 will be built in existing West Bank settlement blocs, including 902 in Ariel and 652 in Givat Zeev.
One hundred will be constructed in Beit El, a settlement near Ramallah that reportedly has received funding from a foundation run by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
Following the announcement, Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Twitter: “We are building – and continuing to build.”
Benjamin Netanyahu says he still supports a two-state solution, but on January 22 he reportedly told ministers that he was lifting restrictions on construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as the city’s municipality approved permits for 566 new homes in the settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.
He also discussed the peace process with the Palestinians with President Trump in a telephone conversation, during which he was invited to a meeting in Washington in early February.
“The president emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal,” the White House said.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly denounced January 24 announcement.
She said in a statement: “Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability.
“Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council resolution 2334.”
Hanan Ashrawi called on the US and the rest of the international community to “undertake serious and concrete measures to bring about a full cessation of all settlement activities and to hold Israel to account for these disastrous plans with punitive measures and sanctions before it completes the destruction of the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank”.
The Conference for Peace in the Middle East, with focus on starting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, is being held in Paris.
Over 70 countries and international organizations are expected to reaffirm support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.
The conference is hosted by Jean-Marc Ayrault and French President François Hollande is expected to speak at.
Palestinians have welcomed the meeting but Israel – which is not attending – says the conference is loaded against it.
The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.
Israel and the Palestinians have been invited to hear the conclusions of the meeting, but not to participate in the summit itself.
Image source Wikimedia
The conference comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution in December 2016 denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land.
Israel accused the US and the Obama administration of engineering the motion and enabling it to pass by not using its power of veto in the UN Security Council.
The White House denied colluding to get the resolution passed.
Reports say a draft statement for the meeting calls on Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution” and avoid taking “unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations”.
A “two-state solution” of a Palestinian country alongside Israel has long been endorsed by both sides but there are sharply divergent visions as to the type of state which should emerge.
Israel rejects international involvement in the peace process, saying a settlement can only come through direct talks.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu called the Paris meeting “a rigged conference” which Israel would not be bound by.
He said on January 12: “[It’s] rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances.
“This pushes peace backwards.”
Secretary of State John Kerry would be at the meeting to ensure “whatever happens in this conference is constructive and balanced”.
Spokesman Mark Toner said the US did not “want to see anything that attempts to impose a solution on Israel”.
Israel is concerned that the conference might set the terms for a final agreement and seek to get it adopted at the UN, a move it feels would undermine future negotiations.
Despite years of on-off peace talks, major differences still separate Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.
The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.
Other core issues at the Paris conference will include the future status of Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned as biased a speech by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
John Kerry said the prospect of a peace deal based on a two-state solution was in grave jeopardy as Israeli settlement building on occupied land was a major problem.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was disappointed with the speech, which he said was “unbalanced” and “obsessively focused” on settlements.
John Kerry had “paid lip service to the unremitting Palestinian campaign of terrorism” against Israel, he said.
He added that the conflict centered on the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but John Kerry “does not see the simple truth”.
Earlier, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in support of Israel, saying he would not allow it to be treated with “disdain and disrespect”.
Image source Wikimedia
He urged Israel to “stay strong” until he assumed office next month.
France, which will host an international conference to lay down the framework for a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in Paris in January, indicated support for John Kerry’s position.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said John Kerry’s speech was “clear, committed and courageous”.
Following the speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggested he was ready to resume peace negotiations if Israel stopped activity within its settlements.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said President Mahmoud Abbas was “fully confident” that a “just, comprehensive, and lasting solution” could be reached.
He said: “If the Israeli Government agrees to cease settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, and to implement the agreements signed by the two sides, the Palestinian leadership will be willing to resume negotiations.”
Last week, the United States chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlement construction, leading to an angry response from Israel.
The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
In his speech, John Kerry said that despite Israeli claims to the contrary, UN condemnation of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied land was in line with American values.
John Kerry said: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. That future is now in jeopardy.
“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.
“The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any Israel’s history, are leading in the opposite direction. They are leading towards one state.”
Israel has postponed a vote to authorize construction of almost 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Israeli committee’s decision apparently follows a request from PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
The move also comes ahead of a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Secretary of State John Kerry.
On December 23, the US chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to settlement construction.
The decision to abstain infuriated Benjamin Netanyahu, whose spokesman said on December 27 he had “ironclad information” from Arab sources that the White House had helped draft the language of the resolution and “pushed hard” for its passage.
Image source Wikimedia
However, a US state department spokesman said the accusation was “just not true”, but he hoped the resolution would “serve as a wake-up call” for Israel.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The UN resolution passed on December 23 stated that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
Benjamin Netanyahu responded over the weekend by summoning the ambassadors of the US and the 14 countries on the Security Council who voted in favor of the resolution, recalling Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, cutting aid to Senegal, and canceling a visit by Ukraine’s prime minister.
The Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee had indicated it would press ahead with a planned vote on authorizing 492 new homes in the settlements of Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.
However, on December 28, planning committee member Hanan Rubin said the vote had been postponed.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to lay out his vision for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and address what a senior state department official described as “misleading critiques” of the Obama administration by the Israeli government.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said the resolution “paves the way” for the upcoming conference on Middle East peace in France on January 15.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned American Ambassador Dan Shapiro amid a growing row after the US eased the passage of a UN resolution against Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, took the unusual step of calling the US ambassador to his office.
The move comes after Israel summoned ambassadors from countries which voted for the December 23 resolution.
The reprimands came after Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take retaliatory steps for what he called a “shameful” act by the UN.
The resolution, which harshly criticized Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, passed when the US abstained instead of using its veto.
Image source Wikimedia
Israel has accused the US, its closest ally but a frequent critic of settlements, of engineering the vote – a charge Washington has denied.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, co-ordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.
“Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”
The UN resolution – the first since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy – said the settlements had “no legal validity” and constituted “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution”.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have had a difficult relationship during President Obama’s two terms and Israel had feared that Washington would take such a measure in the final weeks of Obama’s presidency.
Donald Trump tweeted that the vote was a “big loss” for Israel which “will make it much harder to negotiate peace”, vowing “we will get it done anyway”.
The president-elect promised that “things will be different” at the UN after he takes office on January 20.
Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his foreign ministry to summon the ambassadors of 10 countries which voted in favor of the resolution and which have embassies in Israel.
The reprimand on Christmas Day, when most embassies are closed, is unusual and a sign of the seriousness with which Israel is taking the matter.
In remarks on December 24, Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would work to get the resolution rescinded, adding that allies in the US Congress and the incoming administration had promised to “fight an all-out war” against the measure.
The prime minister said he had already halted Israeli funding to five UN institutions “that are especially hostile to Israel”, and warned of further steps to come.
In the wake of the vote, Israel recalled its ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, which both put forward the resolution, and canceled planned visits to Israel by the foreign ministers of Senegal and Ukraine, which had voted for the text.
The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land the Palestinians want for a future state.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has described the UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land as “shameful”.
The prime minister stressed that Israel would not abide by December 23vote at the 15-member UN Security Council.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.
The resolution was passed after the US refused to veto it, breaking with long-standing American practice.
Washington has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions.
The Egyptian-drafted resolution had been withdrawn after Israel asked President-elect Donald Trump to intervene, but it was proposed again by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela.
The UN resolutin, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.
Image source Wikimedia
It says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
The issue is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.
About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms.
“At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half-a-million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall <<occupied territory>>.”
He said the Obama administration “not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes”, and added that he looked forward to working with Donald Trump.
Israel also announced its ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal had been ordered to return for consultations and that it was cutting all aid programs to Senegal.
It has no diplomatic ties with Malaysia and Venezuela.
A spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said: “The Council’s action, while long overdue, is timely, necessary and important.”
Samantha Power, the US envoy to the UN, said the resolution reflected the “facts on the ground” that settlement growth had been accelerating.
Criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu, she said: “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding settlements and champion a two-state solution that would end the conflict.”
However, Samantha Power said the US had not voted in favor of the resolution because it was “too narrowly focused” on settlements.
She added that even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace.
Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted after the vote: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
On December 22, Donald Trump had urged the council to reject the motion, saying: “Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”
Security will be tightened in Israeli Arab areas after a gunman killed two people in a shooting at a popular bar in Tel Aviv, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said.
Visiting the scene of the attack on January 2, Benjamin Netanyahu demanded “loyalty to the state’s laws from everyone”.
Police have named a 29-year-old Israeli Arab as the suspect. No motive has been established for the shooting.
Seven people were also wounded, four of them seriously, in January 1 attack outside the bar.
Security forces are on “heightened alert” and are searching for the gunman who is still at large, police said on January 2.
Visiting the bar in Dizengoff Street, Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israeli Arab leaders for condemning the killings – but said Israel was in danger of becoming “a state of law for most citizens, and a state within a state with Islamist incitement and illegal arms that are often used in weddings, celebrations and criminal incidents”, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Benjamin Netanyahu said his government would “bolster law enforcement efforts in the Negev, the Galilee, the Triangle, everywhere”. This would include building new police stations and recruiting more police officers.
The attack took place in a busy part of Tel Aviv city center filled with bars and cafes.
Security camera footage showed the gunman taking an automatic rifle out of his backpack and then firing at least 15 shots at people in the street before fleeing the scene.
The two victims have been identified as Alon Bakal, 26, who was a manager at the bar targeted, and Shimon Ruimi, 30.
The suspect, from northern Israel, had stolen the gun from his father, who works in security, Haaretz newspaper reported.
The father recognized his son from media reports and contacted the police, the newspaper said.
Tel Aviv shootings follow a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis over the past few months.
House Speaker John Boehner plans to visit Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel next month.
Republicans have been highly critical of President Barack Obama over the deteriorating relationship with Israel.
John Boehner’s visit will take place in April, weeks after a clear election victory for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
During the campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed not to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state, angering the White House.
Benjamin Netanyahu has since tempered those remarks, but the White House still warned there would be “consequences”.
Barack Obama called Benjamin Netanyahu on March 19 to congratulate him on his election victory, but warned him that the US was reassessing its approach to Israeli-Palestine peace in the wake of Netanyahu’s comments.
John Boehner’s visit will take place at some point during a two-week congressional recess that begins on March 30, according to his spokesman, Kevin Smith.
“He looks forward to visiting the country, discussing our shared priorities for peace and security in the region, and further strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel,” Kevin Smith said.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the visit would include several congressional Republicans.
Kevin Smith declined to comment on specifics of the trip.
In January, John Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress without notifying the White House.
Benjamin Netanyahu used the speech on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections, to criticize Barack Obama’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.
Obama Administration officials and several Congressional Democrats criticized Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, calling it a political ploy.
Many Democrats chose not to attend the speech, and Barack Obama refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benjamin Netanyahu has won a fourth term as Israel’s prime minister after his right-wing Likud Party has won a surprise victory in the country’s general elections.
Exit polls had forecast a dead heat but with almost all votes counted, results give Likud a clear lead over its main rival, the centre-left Zionist Union.
The outcome gives PM Benjamin Netanyahu a strong chance of forming a right-wing coalition government.
It puts the incumbent on course to clinch a fourth term and become Israel’s longest-serving prime minster.
The latest tally gives Likud 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, with Zionist Union on 24 seats.
In a speech to jubilant supporters in Tel Aviv after Tuesday’s polls closed, Benjamin Netanyahu described the vote as a “great victory” for Likud, which had trailed the Zionist Union in opinion polls in the run-up to the election.
Benjamin Netanyahu “plans to immediately begin forming a government in order to complete the task within two to three weeks,” a statement from Likud said.
It said he had already spoken to parties he saw as possible coalition partners, including right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties and centrist Kulanu, which won 10 seats.
Zionist Union leader Yitzhak Herzog called Benjamin Netanyahu early on March 18 to congratulate him on the result and wished him “good luck”.
“Nothing has changed, we will keep fighting for a just society,” Yitzhak Herzog was quoted as saying by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“This is not an easy morning for us and for those who believe in our way,” Yitzhak Herzog and Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni said in a statement.
Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, while Zionist Union expressed support for a two-state solution and promised to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.
In the wake of the vote, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians would step up their bid for statehood.
“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, so we say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify diplomatic efforts,” he told AFP news agency.
Almost 72% of those eligible voted in Tuesday’s election. Turnout was four points higher than the previous election in 2013.
Israel’s form of proportional representation always produces smaller parties and coalition government. None has ever won an outright majority under Israel’s proportional representation voting system.
The Joint Arab List, an alliance of Israeli Arab-dominated parties that united for the first time, came third with 14 seats.
Nearly six million Israelis are expected to polls to vote for a new parliament on March 17.
The new elections are expected to be a close contest between PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s party and a centre-left alliance.
The centre-left Zionist Union promises to repair relations with Palestinians and the international community.
Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party has trailed in opinion polls, vowed on March 16 not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he wins a fourth term.
The economy and living standards have emerged as key issues.
Polls opened at 07:00 and are due to close at 22:00 local time.
Results could be declared soon afterwards, but a lengthy period of negotiations over the formation of the next coalition government may follow.
No party has ever won an outright majority under Israel’s proportional representation voting system, and neither side is expected to get more than a quarter of the votes in Tuesday’s election.
Votes are cast for a party, rather than individual candidates. There are 120 seats up for grabs though electoral system means no single party will achieve a majority.
Photo Flash 90
Blocs of parties must command at least 61 seats to form a government and the president has seven days in which to appoint a member of parliament with best chance of forming a government. The candidate has initial 28 days to put workable coalition together.
Opinion polls published before the weekend suggested that the centre-left Zionist Union is likely to win the most seats.
It might still be possible for Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government even if his Likud party fails to top the poll.
As Benjamin Netanyahu cast his vote on Tuesday, he ruled out forming a coalition with the Zionist Union: “There will not be a unity government with Labor. I will form a nationalist (rightwing) government.”
Zionist Union party co-leader Yitzhak Herzog said his rival represented the “path of despair and disappointment”.
“Whoever wants change, hope, and really a better future for Israel, will vote the Zionist Camp,” he said.
International issues, from Israel’s relationship with the United States to concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, have been one focus of the campaign.
Many of the candidates have concentrated on Israel’s socio-economic problems, including the high cost of living and slow economic growth.
The future of the city of Jerusalem has also been a central election issue.
Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently accused his centre-left challengers of being willing to relinquish Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its indivisible capital in peace talks with the Palestinians.
On March 16, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the Har Homa Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and said he was the only person who could ensure the city’s security.
He said no Palestinian state would be formed were he to remain prime minister.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Yitzhak Herzog has accused Benjamin Netanyahu of “panicking”.
Visiting the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, on Sunday, Yitzhak Herzog pledged to “safeguard Jerusalem and its residents in actions, not just words, more than any other leader”.
President Barack Obama has dismissed a speech by Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu that castigated his policy towards Iran.
In a speech to the US Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a deal under discussion on Iran’s nuclear program could “pave Iran’s path to the bomb” rather than block it.
Barack Obama said Benjamin Netanyahu had offered no viable alternative.
Other senior Democrats – and Iran – also criticized Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit was controversial from the start, because Republican speaker John Boehner invited him without consulting the White House.
President Barack Obama announced he would not meet Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting in a closely contested national election in just two weeks’ time.
Talks on Iran’s nuclear program are nearing a critical late-March deadline for an outline agreement to be reached.
In a speech to the Congress regularly punctuated by standing ovations Benjamin Netanyahu depicted Iran as a “threat to the entire world”.
He insisted Iran had proven time and time again that it could not be trusted.
Benjamin Netanyahu went on to criticize the likely contours of the deal currently being negotiated in Switzerland, where Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Secretary of State John Kerry on March 3.
“We’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.
“Well this is a bad deal, a very bad deal, We’re better off without it.”
Benjamin Netanyahu said it relied heavily on international monitoring, when Iran “plays a pretty good game of <<hide and cheat>> with UN inspectors”.
The Israeli prime minister received a rapturous reception for his speech, but dozens of Democrats – including Vice President Joe Biden – stayed away.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi at times refused to clap and later issued a statement saying Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech had been an “insult to the intelligence of the United States” that had left her near tears.
Barack Obama said he had been unable to watch the speech as it was given, but found “nothing new” when he read the transcript.
“The alternative that the prime minister offers is <<no deal>>, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again pursuing its nuclear program, accelerate its nuclear program without us having any insight into what they are doing and without constraint,” he said.
The president said sanctions alone were not sufficient without offering Iran an alternative path.
Other Democrats criticized the speech, with Representative John Yarmuth calling it “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook – fear mongering at its worst”.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry said Benjamin Netanyahu’s words were “boring and repetitive”, Fars news agency reported.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the “Iranophobic” speech was a “deceitful show and part of the election campaign of Tel Aviv’s hardliners”.
The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China are seeking to reach agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
They fear Iran has ambitions to build a nuclear bomb – something Iran denies, insisting it is merely exercising its right to peaceful nuclear power.
Negotiators are currently working towards a late-March deadline for an outline agreement with Iran, which would be followed by a detailed deal by the end of June.
Iran must halt its nuclear program for at least a decade if it wants to strike a deal with the US, President Barack Obama has said.
However, the odds are against talks with Iran ending with an agreement, Barack Obama told Reuters.
Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are at a critical stage, with an outline agreement due on March 31.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to urge the US Congress on March 3 to oppose a deal.
He was invited to speak at the US Capitol by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, angering Democrats.
Benjamin Netanyahu – who faces domestic elections in two weeks’ time – will not meet President Barack Obama during his visit to the US.
In his interview, Barack Obama said disagreements over Iran would not be “permanently destructive” to the US-Israel relationship.
However, Benjamin Netanyahu had been wrong on Iran before when he opposed an interim nuclear agreement struck last year, Barack Obama said.
“Netanyahu made all sorts of claims – this was going to be a terrible deal, this was going to result in Iran getting $50bn worth of relief, Iran would not abide by the agreement.”
None of that has come true, the president said.
“During this period we’ve seen Iran not advance its program. In many ways, it’s rolled back elements of its program.”
The US, along with the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, are seeking to reach agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
They are trying to address concerns that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons technology, something Tehran denies.
Secretary of State John Kerry is holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the ongoing negotiations ahead of a March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.
The aim is then to secure a final deal by June 30.
Barack Obama said that if Iran was willing to agree to “double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist… and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take” to ensure Iran does not have nuclear arms.
Barack Obama said that while a deal was still unlikely, it would be better than the alternatives.
“If they do agree to it, it would be far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take, any military action Israel could take, and far more effective than sanctions will be,” Barack Obama told Reuters.
The US goal is to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one,” he said.
The Israelis say any agreement that leaves Iran with a workable nuclear industry, now or in the future, is too dangerous.
“I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them,” Benjamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington on March 2.
The leading Republican and Democrat on the House foreign relations committee have sent a letter to Barack Obama highlighting their concerns about a deal.
They said Congress must be convinced that any pathway Iran might have to developing a nuclear weapon is shut off before Congress considers easing sanctions.
US national security adviser Susan Rice has warned Congress not to seek new sanctions against Iran while the talks with world powers are ongoing.
Secretary of State John Kerry has accused of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu of not being correct on Iran’s nuclear program talks.
Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the US and others for “giving up” on trying to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Israeli PM “may not be correct”, John Kerry said after attending the latest Iran nuclear talks in Geneva.
Benjamin Netanyahu will address Congress next week, after an invitation by Republican leaders criticized by the White House.
John Kerry was reacting to a speech in which Benjamin Netanyahu had said the US and others were “accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons”.
“I respect the White House and the president of the United States but on such a fateful matter, that can determine whether or not we survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel,” he said in a speech in Israel.
Having just concluded the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva, John Kerry told senators President Barack Obama had made it clear the policy was not to let Iran get nuclear weapons and Benjamin Netanyahu’s might therefore not be correct.
The invitation for Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress has angered Democrats.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
A spokesman for the White House warned against reducing US-Israeli relations to a party-political issue.
Earlier, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had gone further and said Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit was “destructive to the fabric of the relationship”.
Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s Iran policy.
Israel’s prime minister is expected to discuss Iran, as well as Islamist militant groups, in his address.
The current tensions took root over a decade ago when Iran’s nuclear program first came to light.
In 2005, Iran was referred to the UN Security Council, leading to a series of sanctions and UN resolutions requiring Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
The US and other powers – the so-called P5+1 – are negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program. They want to agree a deal by March this year, but Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to any agreement which might allow Tehran to retain the future capacity to build a nuclear weapon.
Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down an invitation to meet Senate Democrats privately, saying this “could compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his trip.
Several Democratic members of Congress including Vice-President Joe Biden have said they will not attend the speech.
Republican leaders did not consult the Obama administration before inviting Benjamin Netanyahu, which the White House has called a breach of protocol.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on February 25: “The president has said the relationship between the US and Israel can’t just be reduced to a relationship between the Republican party and the Likud party.”
Barack Obama does not plan to meet Benjamin Netanyahu next week. The White House cited the “long-standing practice” of not meeting government leaders close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting a tough election against the Labor Party’s Yitzhak Herzog, who has focused on the prime minister’s cooler relations with Barack Obama.
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