Official: Israel to Reject Mitchell Report's Proposed Settlement Freeze
Israel will formally reject a US-led inquiry's call for a freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli official said on Monday, cited by Reuters.
The official Israeli response is due on Tuesday, but Israel “has decided to adopt all of the Mitchell committee's report except for two reservations," the official said after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met senior cabinet ministers to draft his government's response.
The Palestinians have said they back the 32-page report by the committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell.
The Israeli official said Israel would on Tuesday reject the committee's call for a blanket freeze on construction of the Jewish settlements, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and "settled" in violation of international law.
In addition, the Israeli government rejected criticism in the committee's report of the army's use of lethal force against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, the official said.
Israel opposes any criticism of the army, which is fighting "under difficult conditions,” the official told Reuters.
Israel backs the report's recommendations for ending violence and renewing peace talks, the official said. They include a ceasefire, a period of calm, and confidence-building steps before negotiations on a peace treaty are re-started.
The Jerusalem Post reported that visiting Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley hinted at the need for the international community to press Israel to freeze all construction in the settlements.
"I think that without international pressure, the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee will probably not go anywhere," he told reporters after meeting with President Moshe Katsav.
At an earlier press conference with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Manley said the Mitchell report "provides a sound basis for moving forward from here. I very strongly urged Mr. Peres to get me the ability to say that Israel is prepared to act on the recommendations of the Mitchell report, including recommendations on the settlements."
Manley said that Canada's position is consistent with the Mitchell report, which is that settlement activity must stop - Albawaba.com
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