Settlements showdown beckons for Netanyahu in Berlin

Tue Dec 4, 2012 12:07pm EST
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By Alexandra Hudson

BERLIN (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu faces a dressing down from Angela Merkel on Wednesday over his plans to build more Israeli settlements, a policy that has incensed Europe and left even Germany, one of Israel's strongest allies, questioning his commitment to peace.

The issue will overshadow consultations between the German and Israeli governments on issues ranging from Israel's defense and security to greater cooperation in science and research and could further strain already cool working relations between Netanyahu and the German chancellor.

The Israeli prime minister is still smarting from what he considers Berlin's betrayal after Germany abstained in a U.N. vote last week that upgraded the Palestinians' status to "non-member state" from "observer entity".

He had wanted Berlin to vote no.

Netanyahu will stop briefly in Prague on his way to Berlin to thank the Czechs for being the only European state to join Israel and the United States in opposing the resolution, underscoring how important the issue was for him.

Germany says its decision was based on the view that the Palestinians were justified in desiring their own state, but had chosen the wrong way of pushing the issue. It argued that moves in the United Nations rather than talks in the Middle East would only hamper peace and push both sides further apart.

So far, the Germans appear to have been right.

A day after the U.N. General Assembly backed the Palestinian bid, Israel said it would build new dwellings for Jewish settlers.   Continued...

A view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim (front) is seen near Jerusalem December 4, 2012. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to expand Israeli settlements may risk a diplomatic crisis with Europe but could prove a good bet at the ballot box. REUTERS/Ammar Awad