Monday, June 1, 2009

How's That Reset Button Working For Ya', Hill? (the Netanyahou Nyet)

Netanyahu: Call for settlement freeze unreasonable

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dismissing U.S. calls for a West Bank settlement freeze as unreasonable.

Officials say Netanyahu delivered his assessment to a closed parliamentary committee Monday.

The U.S. has demanded that Israel halt all construction in the settlements. Netanyahu says some building must continue to accommodate what he calls "natural growth."

A meeting participant says Netanyahu testified that Israel cannot "freeze life" in existing settlements. He said "there are reasonable requests and unreasonable requests."

Another participant says Netanyahu said his job is to protect Israel, even if his decisions are not popular.

The participants spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) — Mobs of Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the West Bank Monday, attacking Palestinian laborers and setting fire to agricultural land to protest against an Israeli government crackdown on unauthorized outposts in the territory.

Six Palestinian laborers riding on a minivan were injured when stone-throwing settlers attacked them, the workers said.

The violence comes as the Obama administration is pressuring Israel to honor long-standing pledges to tear down wildcat settlement outposts in the West Bank and to freeze expansion in existing, government-sanctioned settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has balked at the U.S. demand to halt construction in existing settlements and faces stiff resistance within his hard-line government against taking down about two dozen of the outposts. The disagreement has caused a rift between the allies.

It has also put Jewish settlers and their backers in the Israeli government on the defensive.

Monday's violence was all deep inside the West Bank, where most of the hard-line settlements are located.

It started overnight near the radical settlement of Yizhar, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. About 100 settlers blocked a road to protest against Israel's recent removal of a handful of tiny, uninhabited outposts. Six settlers were later arrested there.

Before dawn near another radical settlement, Kedumim, stone-throwing settlers ambushed a minivan carrying Palestinian laborers to Israel, the workers said. Six of the 15 Palestinians on board were hurt, including Yahye Sadah, who was hit in the head.

"I was hit in the head by a rock from a distance of 3 meters (10 feet). I ran away. I thought I'd die," said Sadah, 44, who spoke from a nearby hospital after getting six stitches.

Police said settlers threw rocks and burned tires in the area but that only one man was slightly wounded. The attackers fled and no arrests were made, they said.

A few hours later, settlers torched a wooded hilltop near Nablus and set trees and Palestinian agricultural land on fire near the village of Hawara, local council chief Ali Eid said.

Romel Sweiti, a Hawara resident, said the fires torched nearly 1 acre (0.40 hectares) of land. He said about 50 teenage Israeli settler girls gathered on a main road and blocked traffic as Israeli paramilitary police stood in the background.

Settler activist Daniella Weiss, who lives in the area, said she was unaware of the violence. But she vowed that Jewish residents would resist any attempts to move them, "no matter how harsh the policy of the Israeli government will be against us."

"The policy of dismantling outposts is an opening phase for withdrawal," she said. "This will not ensure the future security of the state of Israel."

Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in the settlements among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Another 180,000 live in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas — captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — as parts of a future independent state.

The U.S. considers the settlements an obstacle to peace, but traditionally has done little on the issue, a policy that appears to be changing under President Barack Obama.

The rampage underscored the difficulties Netanyahu faces.

On one hand, he is wary of picking a fight with the U.S., his most important ally. But settlers have a vocal leadership with many allies inside Netanyahu's government, constraining his ability to take action.

"Anyone with a basic understanding of this issue could have predicted that as talks of evacuations of illegal constructions begin, Jewish terror cells will rear their heads and set the West Bank on fire," warned Yesh Din, an anti-settlement watchdog group in Israel.

Netanyahu has dispatched his defense minister, Ehud Barak, to Washington this week in hopes of winning approval to allow at least limited construction to continue in the settlements. But the Obama administration has so far signaled it is not willing to budge.(source)

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