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Abbas warns of legal action against Israeli settlements
Published Wednesday 01/01/2014 (updated) 04/01/2014 11:43
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Palestinians wave the national flag as they await the release of
prisoners in Jerusalem on December 31, 2013.(AFP/Menahem Kahana)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday of legal and diplomatic action to stop Israeli settlement expansion, on the eve of a new peace mission by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Abbas's warning came after Israel freed 26 prisoners earlier in the day, as part of US-brokered peace talks, which Kerry hopes to reinvigorate during his visit.

But as Kerry geared up for his 10th visit since March, an anticipated announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government of further settlement construction looked set to cast a new cloud over the talks.

Abbas warned the Palestinians would take action to halt any such construction in territories they expect to form part of their promised state.

"We will not remain patient as the settlement cancer spreads, especially in (annexed East) Jerusalem, and we will use our right as a UN observer state by taking political, diplomatic and legal action to stop it," he said.

"These actions show a lack of seriousness on the Israeli side in the negotiations and threaten to destroy the two-state solution."

Kerry has been pressing the two sides to agree on a framework for a final peace agreement ahead of an agreed late April target date for the talks to conclude.

The prisoners were the third batch of 104 detainees that Netanyahu pledged to release in four stages when the peace talks were revived in July. All were imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo accords, which launched the Middle East peace process.

The freed prisoners were welcomed back to Ramallah in the West Bank, with others to East Jerusalem and the remainder to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Hamas hailed the prisoner release, but reiterated their rejection of the peace talks and slammed the notion that freeing prisoners justified Israeli settlement expansion.

"The release of any prisoner is a gain for our people," Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya said.

"But we reject negotiating with the occupation (Israel) and we do not accept that settlements should be expanded in exchange for that."

'Painful steps'

Netanyahu meanwhile criticized the hero's welcome given to the released prisoners, who had served 19 to 28 years after being convicted of killing Israeli civilians or soldiers.

"While we are prepared to take very painful steps in an effort to try and reach an agreement ... they, along with their highest leadership, are celebrating," he said.

"Murderers are not heroes."

A senior US State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity described the release as "really painful, difficult on the Israeli side".

Tuesday's release was expected to be accompanied by an announcement of new construction plans for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, as the previous two prisoner releases were.

Such a move is likely to infuriate the PLO and the international community, providing a further challenge for Kerry, whose intense shuttle diplomacy managed to revive the talks after a three-year hiatus.

But Netanyahu has come under strong pressure from hardliners both within his rightwing Likud party and its more hawkish coalition partners to take a stand.

Kerry will also have to quell tensions that rose after an Israeli ministerial committee on Sunday gave initial approval to a bill annexing Jordan Valley settlements, a largely symbolic move expected to be shot down by the government.

Abbas reiterated total rejection of Israel's demand to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, which forms a third of the occupied West Bank.

"We have said that the Palestinian people is the one most in need of security, and is the one who needs guarantees of protection against the aggression of the occupation and the settlers."
1 ) MAX / CH
01/01/2014 15:45
Warning is not enough.I dont believe in the so called peace,Israel needs Enemies and Wars to survive(for US money,arouse pity)if there are no enemies thy will be invented or made(the palestinians)Israel,should be invaded,the criminal regime should be toppled,the land must be confiscated and seized back to the native inhabitants,nothing else will help to get rid of this freeloader and to gain of some injustice,-this will be a small compensation for the millions destroyed lives and homes.

2 ) Hetty / the Netherlands
01/01/2014 16:01
"While we are prepared to take very painful steps in an effort to try and reach an agreement ... they, along with their highest leadership, are celebrating," he said. So this warcriminal thinks he can also occupy Palestinians minds and hearts? "Very painful steps": sorry, but we don't buy this. We know exactly what this terrorist is up to.

3 ) Tobias / USA
02/01/2014 15:32
"Oh my gosh" !! ( Smirk, Smirk )
"Legal Action" !! ( Big Long Yawn )
As long as the PLO pretends that the world's involvement will change anything, Israel can play along with the game, with a Smirk and a Yawn, while building legal Jewish, and demolishing illegal Arab constructions !!

4 ) Looks like Palestinian / IWO JIMA!!!
02/01/2014 17:15
Wonderful brave picture!!!!!

5 ) roman / usa
02/01/2014 19:34
@1, why the are native? because they speak Arabic and muslims? this is racism! Jews were always the native there and always be, in a greater number or in a lesser. Judea Galilee and Samaria ... and the day will come when "natives" of Palestine" will go back out of it where they are belong .. to Masr, Jordon, Sudan, Syria, Lyubnan ... I don't understand the non wise people, who belive tha Palestinian is a nationality of arab speaking muslims and some Christians of the region.

6 ) Maureen / Australia
02/01/2014 19:46
#3 Tobias The arrogant belligerence of Israel, that you have mirrored in your comment, is exactly what is going to be the demise of Israel!

7 ) Colin Wright / USA
03/01/2014 03:51
To Maureen #6: '#3 Tobias The arrogant belligerence of Israel, that you have mirrored in your comment, is exactly what is going to be the demise of Israel!' Yeah. Ultimately, Israel pinning its defense on 'might makes right' will be its undoing. They'll have a hard case to make when things change.

8 ) So stup@@ / Usa
03/01/2014 19:47
And Israel will then right after charge Palestinians for war crimes !!

9 ) Maureen / Australia
03/01/2014 20:37
#7 Colin Wright Notice how #8 also mirrors Israel's behavior - playing the victim and blaming the real victim?

10 ) Outlier / USA
03/01/2014 23:44
Here is a novel idea. How about Abbas and the rest of PA leadership preparing Palestinians for a peace settlement that does not include "pie in the sky," but instead reflects reality; that they will not be getting everything promised? Putting their energy into negotiating peace and lowering population expectations is a much better use of time than this silliness.
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