Monday, December 10, 2012

The EU criticizes Israel’s settlement expansion plans in a statement released at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. Sweden’s FM Carl Bildt says European governments are increasingly frustrated by the settlement policy. The ministers also emphasize that the EU’s agreements with Israel only apply to the pre-1967 territory, which a diplomatic source tells the Israeli media could be a sign of future action related to settlement products. (JP, REU 12/10)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says that construction plans for the E1 area e. of Jerusalem do not prevent the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state, and repeats the offer of direct talks with Mahmud Abbas ‘‘without preconditions.’’ Meanwhile, Palestinian cheif negotiator Saeb Erakat outlines 3 conditions for a return to talks: (1) agreement that the goal of the peace process is a withdrawal to the 1967 borders; (2) restarting negotiations from the point they were halted; and (3) setting a 6-mo. timetable for agreement on all final-status issues. He adds that Israel should halt settlement activity, but does not list it as a condition. (AFP, JP 12/10)

Israel’s Finance Ministry deducts more than $71 m. from VAT taxes Israel collects and holds on the PA’s behalf and transfers it to Israel’s Electric Corporation to cover 37% of the PA’s electricity debt. (YA 12/10)

Independent politician Khalil Assaf says that the PA has officially agreed to allow Hamas to hold a festival in Nablus commemorating the movement’s 25th anniversary. (MNA 12/10)

In the West Bank, the IDF, citing military exercises, compels 6 Palestinian families to leave their homes in a village in the n. Jordan Valley. The IDF also notifies Palestinian farmers nr. Salfit that the road connecting the village to their fields will be demolished in the next 2 weeks. The IDF patrols in 2 villages nr. Tulkarm in the afternoon, in 1 village each nr. Jericho and Ramallah at night; conducts house searches and arrest raids in 1 village nr. Bethlehem in the afternoon, and in Ramallah and nearby Qaddura r.c. at night. The Ramallah raid targets prisoner support NGO Addameer and the Palestinian NGO Network, as well as the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. In all 3 cases, soldiers ransack the offices and confiscate equipment, including computer hardware. (WAFA 12/10; MNA 12/10; PCHR 12/13; AP 12/11)

Israeli PM Netanyahu says that Iran is getting closer to being able to build a nuclear bomb and that 2013 will be the year to confront the issue. Western diplomats say that Israel is suspected to be behind a series of leaks, intended to increase pressure, about Iranian nuclear weapon experiments. Diplomats say that the P5+1 world powers expect to hold a fresh round of talks with Tehran in early 2013. (JP, Guardian, REU 12/10)