Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says Israel’s settlement policy is a "mistake" and "could be an obstacle to peace."
In an interview published Sunday in the Israeli daily newspaper, the Haaretz, the Italian premier said, "I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake."
"It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a peace agreement," added Berlusconi.
The issue of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is only one of the stumbling blocks for the relaunching of negotiations as the Palestinians seek a full freeze on the unlawful construction activities and their entitlement to the occupied territories.
The Palestinian Authority has already ruled out negotiations with the Israeli side as a waste of time and a green light for more Israeli settlements.
The Palestinians demand that Israel adhere to the 2002 Road Map for the Peace plan brokered by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, which requires Israel to "dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and also freeze all settlement activities."
Around half a million Israeli settlers have been housed in over 120 illegal settlements and more than 100 Israeli outposts have been illegally constructed on Palestinian lands across the occupied West Bank, including the East Jerusalem Al-Quds and the lands seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.