Senior PLO member warns building in east J'lem will lead to intifada
After Netanyahu vows to continue east Jerusalem construction, Qureia says, 'If Israel continues these practices, another uprising will break out'; Egyptian FM calls Israel's actions 'attempt to suffocate the Palestinians'. Dozens of Palestinians riot north of Jerusalem
PLO executive committee member Ahmed Qureia warned Monday that if Israel continues to build Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem and raze Arab homes "another intifada will break out."
Speaking to reporters in Abu Dis, Qureia, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said, "If matters remain at this level, regardless of whether we take the decision or not, it is coming. If Israel continues these practices, it is coming," he said.
Tensions between Palestinians and Israel have escalated in recent weeks following an Israeli government decision to include West Bank religious sites in a Jewish national heritage plan.
Meanwhile, the European Union made a new push Monday to revive the stalled Mideast peace process, offering to raise aid to the Palestinians and beef up its security missions in Lebanon and the Palestinian areas to help Israel.
Reflecting Europe's frustration over the deadlocked peace process, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security affairs chief, criticized Israel's announcement last week it will build new housing units in east Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership's reluctance to embrace reforms.
Ashton said the EU wants the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the EU, the United States, the United Nations and Russia - to do more to nudge Israel and the Palestinians to peace.
"The European Union is ready to step up its involvement" in the peace process, Ashton said in an address to the Arab League in Cairo, opening a four-day tour of the Middle East.
The comments came as tensions mounted over Israel's plan to build 1,600 housing units east Jerusalem. The announcement coincided with a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden and drew a string of condemnation from US officials.
Palestinians say the Jewish construction eats up land they want for a future state, cuts off east Jerusalem from the rest off the West Bank and prevents the expansion of Arab neighborhoods. The Palestinians also point out that much of the land used for Jewish construction was expropriated from Arab owners.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Israel's actions in Jerusalem are "absurd, an evasion, maneuvering and an attempt to suffocate the Palestinians."
Aboul Gheit said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to have a desire for peace when he visited Egypt in December.
"But the recent measures revealed that there is nothing new, only a desire to waste time. This requires a stance from the international community," Aboul Gheit said following a meeting with Ashton. "Israel must know there is a price to pay."
'Israel hindering peace'
Ashton said the EU will support a Palestinian state with agreed changes to the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine.
The EU is also ready to extend aid to Palestinians - if there is credible movement to a two-state solution - and consider "further political, financial and security guarantees," Ashton said, without elaborating.
The security comment referred to an EU peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, a police training mission in the West Bank and a border monitoring operation on the Israel-Gaza border.
These missions were launched several years ago in response to Israeli demands for more law and order in Palestinian areas.
The international community, Ashton said, including our Arab nations "should offer guarantees to the parties so they can take the necessary steps toward peace."
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal also criticized Israel's construction plan in east Jerusalem, saying, "This is another example of Israel's lack of responsibility and its commitment to prevent the Arab countries and the world from working towards peace."
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu rejected any curbs on Jewish settlement in and around Jerusalem, defying Washington in Israel's deepening crisis with US President Barack Obama's administration.
"For the past 40 years, no Israeli government ever limited construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem," he said in a speech in parliament, citing areas in the West Bank that Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed to the city.
Monday evening saw dozens of Palestinians rioting on the Palestinian side of the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who were reportedly demonstration against Israel's construction plans in east Jerusalem, threw rocks at Border Guard officers, none of whom were wounded.
According to the news agencies, seven Palestinians were injured. Palestinian witnesses and medics said Israeli security forces had fired live rounds at the demonstrators but the Israeli military denied this, saying other measures to disperse the crowd were used.
AP, Reuters and Roee Nahmias contributed to the report