Rice: Settlement plans caused ‘tensions’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Israeli settlement expansion announcements helped spur recent tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a speech Thursday to a Washington think tank, the Middle East Institute, Rice said the United States remained committed to Middle East peacemaking, but made clear that Jewish settlement construction plans are hampering those efforts, Reuters reported.

“We have seen increased tensions on the ground. Some of this is a result of recent settlement announcements. So let me reiterate: The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” she said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that his delegation of peace negotiators had resigned over the lack of progress in statehood talks with Israel. The development would mark a new low point for the talks, which resumed in July.

Abbas suggested negotiations would continue but that he would need a week to resume talks.

The disclosure Tuesday that Israel’s Housing Ministry had commissioned separate plans for nearly 24,000 more homes for Israelis raised U.S. concern and drew Palestinian condemnation.

Netanyahu intervened later in the day, ordering a halt to the projects amid condemnations by several world powers.

Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of creating “artificial crises” over the settlement issue and has said that most of Israel’s building in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem is in areas it intends to keep in any future peace deal.

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