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Germany postpones summit with Israel in apparent reaction to settlement law



The German government has postponed a planned summit with Israeli regime officials in a move reportedly driven by Tel Aviv’s defiance of international — including German — calls to avoid settlement construction on Palestinian land.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials had been scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet on May 10 in Jerusalem al-Quds. A German government spokesman, however, told AFP on Monday that the summit had been rescheduled to take place “only next year.”

While the spokesman said the German government’s busy schedule was to blame, Israeli daily Haaretz said the delay was meant to signal to Israel Chancellor Merkel’s “dissatisfaction” with a recently-approved law that legalized thousands of settler units built on occupied territory in the West Bank.

The Israeli parliament on February 6 rubber-stamped the so-called “Legalization Bill,” which retroactively legalized structures built on Palestinian land. The move came barely two months after the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring that settlement construction “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres blasted the ratification of the bill, emphasizing that it would “have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel.”

A chorus of outcry also followed from elsewhere, including from the German government.

A day after the law was approved, a spokesman for the German Foreign Office said in Berlin that the legislative move “disappointed many in Germany who have deep ties to Israel and who have stood by it.”

The European Union, the United Kingdom, and France issued similar admonitory statements.

Germany had repeatedly called on the Israeli regime to end the policy of settlement construction.

Israel has been setting up settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since occupying the Palestinian territories in 1967. The constructions have been widely condemned as an insidious push toward facilitating the annexation of the lands.

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The Israeli Yesha Council settler group said on Thursday that the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank had risen by 3.9 percent since 2015, twice the growth rate of the Israeli population. It said the number of the settlers had surged beyond 421,000 in 2016. The figure does not include the over 200,000 other Israeli settlers living in East al-Quds.

Remaining silent amid the furor has been the administration of US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has been apparently seeking to take advantage of the issue and has announced more than 5,000 settlement units since Trump’s January 20 inauguration, as well as the first new settlement for more than 20 years.

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