Netanyahu rejects European criticism of settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected European criticism of settlement construction and accused critics of applying a double standard to Israel.

In an address Jan. 16 before foreign reporters in Israel, Netanyahu said that expanding existing Jewish settlements did not impede the peace talks with the Palestinians.

“I don’t think it’s an obstacle to peace at all,” Army Radio quoted Netanyahu as saying at the event organized by the Government Press Office in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu made his comments following the summoning in recent days of several Israeli ambassadors serving in Europe — including envoys to Italy, France, Spain and Britain — to hear complaints about recently announced Israeli settlement plans.

The U.S. Congress last week passed a spending bill that links funding for the Palestinian Authority to its efforts to combat incitement, which is monitored by the United States. The Europeans say the settlements violate international law and that their expansion inhibits peace talks.

Last week, Israel’s Housing Ministry announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Netanyahu said construction was confined to urban clusters. — jta