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Middle East

Israeli PM urged to rethink peace talks

Cabinet minister tells Netanyahu to reconsider peace talks with the Palestinians after shooting of two Israeli soldiers.

Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 12:40
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An army spokesman rebuffed suggestions the killings indicated a deterioration in Israel's security situation [Reuters]

A senior Israeli politician has told the government to rethink peace talks with the Palestinians after the recent deaths of two Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank.

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, cabinet minister Naftali Bennett wrote, "there is no doubt that there have been unfortunate developments since the start of the negotiations which require the government to reconsider its path”.

The second soldier was shot dead on Sunday during a Jewish festival in the West Bank city of Hebron, a hotbed of tensions where about 500 Israeli settler families live among 100,000 Palestinians.

On Saturday, Israeli authorities said a soldier had been killed by a Palestinian who had lured him to his hometown in the West Bank. A Palestinian suspect has been arrested.

‘Strengthen settlement’

Netanyahu issued a statement after the soldier’s death vowing to "strengthen settlement" in land Palestinians want for a state, and settlers move back into a building Israel evacuated in Hebron in April 2012 after a dispute over its ownership.

“Whoever tries to uproot us from the city of our fathers will achieve the opposite," he said.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz, of the ruling Likud party, called for a halt to the planned release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners, after Israel set 26 free ahead of talks last month and slammed the Palestinian Authority for not condemning the two killings.

Isolated incidents

Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai ruled out a link between the two killings and rebuffed suggestions they indicated a deterioration in Israel's security situation.

"We see these as isolated incidents," Mordechai said in a statement, "not as a new trend."

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon announced he would be holding consultations on Monday with members of the security establishment.

About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas which, along with the Gaza Strip, were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Most world powers deem the Jewish settlements illegal and Palestinians fear their presence will deny them a viable state. 

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