Israel‘s president has downplayed the construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian land as a ‘marginal’ issue blocking the resumption of peace talks.
"Unfortunately, it’s a marginal issue, it is some building of houses that became a central issue for the wrong reasons. My answer is even this issue can be settled by negotiations and agreement," Shimon Peres said during a visit to Egypt on Sunday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, however, said Israeli construction on the land it captured in a 1967 war should stop, adding that Tel Aviv should take "courageous decisions" to push forward peace.
The negations, which were suspended during the Gaza war at the turn of the year, have been blocked due to Israel‘s refusal to freeze settlement construction in the occupied land.
The Palestinian side has repeatedly said that it will not resume peace talks, unless Israel completely halts the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Tel Aviv, however, has so far refused to fulfill its commitments, despite pressure from the international community.
"The minute we shall start to negotiate there won’t be new settlements, there won’t be confiscation of land," Peres added.
Israel claims that it is not constructing ‘new’ settlements but only building new units in the existing settlements — an excuse which has failed to satisfy the Palestinians or the international community.