Rice wants clarification on confiscation

Condoleezza Rice asked Israel for a clarification about land it confiscated from Palestinians near Jerusalem.

“I called their ambassador to the United States yesterday and asked for a clarification,” the U.S. secretary of state said Thursday at the launch of a tour that would include stops in the Middle East to promote a U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace conference next month. “I’m awaiting one.”

The land in question straddles Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Rice has long made clear she rejects any Israeli expansion in the area, which Palestinians see as critical to maintaining north-south contiguity.

Israeli spokesmen say the confiscation is for security purposes and to create bypasses for the Palestinians traveling the north-south corridor, and will not be used to build residences. Palestinians reject such explanations, saying bypasses suggest that Israel plans to make permanent its hold on settlements in the area and noting that in the past “security” confiscations have often led to permanent settlements.

A State Department official said Friday that the matter was still under consideration but added: “We would stress the importance of both Israelis and Palestinians taking steps to meet previous commitments and to build the confidence necessary to achieve meaningful progress on a successful path to Palestinian statehood and an end to the conflict.”

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