Palestinians on Tuesday angrily dismissed reported remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would like to negotiate the future annexation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday quoted “an Israeli source” briefed on last week’s meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as saying that Netanyahu wants to resume talks with the Palestinians, with his goal being to reach understandings on the borders of settlement blocs that Israel would annex under any peace agreement.
“The prime minister explained that in this way, it would be clear what parts of the West Bank Israel could continue building in,” the newspaper reported.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP the concept was “completely unacceptable”.
“Netanyahu’s proposal to discuss the borders of settlement blocs is an attempt to legitimise the settlements,” he said.
“The borders that should be set are the borders of the internationally recognised state of Palestine based on 1967 borders.
“Settlements should be stopped instead of being legitimised.”
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the plan attributed to Netanyahu was “a disingenuous and manipulative exercise in political and legal deception”.
“All settlements are illegal and in flagrant contravention of international law and consensus, and any efforts to annex and to legalise the settlements blocs is a blatant attempt to steal more Palestinian land,” she said in a statement.
Israeli seized the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.
Today around 580,000 Jewish settlers live in the territory, including Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu named a new rightwing coalition government earlier this month in which the pro-settlement Jewish Home party is key player.
International concern over peace prospects spiked after Netanyahu vowed during campaigning for a March general election that he would never allow the creation of a Palestinian state.
He has since sought to backtrack on the comments.