Funeral delays Netanyahu-US talks

Funeral of Israeli air force pilot causes PM to delay talks with US Middle East envoy.

    Ramon, right, here with Shimon Peres, was well known in Israel as the son of an astronaut [File: AFP]

    'Double loss'

    Netanyahu said on Monday that the fatal crash that took Ramon's life was a "double loss".

    Many Israeli politicians were at the funeral, including Shimon Peres, the president, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and Gabi Ashkenazi, head of the Israeli military.

    Ramon's F-16 aircraft crashed during an exercise close to the southern Hebron Hills.

    An investigation is continuing, focusing on human factors, particularly physiological problems.

    'No settlement freeze'

    Talks between Netanyahu and Mitchell will take place on Tuesday. However, Netanyahu said that Israel would not bow to the US' demands of freezing illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, but could limit the scope of building.

    Washington sees the freezing of settlement construction as key to resuming peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    "There has to be a balance between the desire to make progress in political negotiations and the need to allow inhabitants of Judea and Samaria to continue to lead normal lives," Netanyahu said, referring to areas of the occupied West Bank.

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is also due to meet Mitchell on Tuesday. Abbas has said that peace talks will not restart negotiations, on hold since December, until Israel freezes its settlement activity.

    Mitchell arrived in Israel on Saturday. Washington is hoping that talks will be restarted once Israel halts settlement construction and Arab nations take steps to recognise Israel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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