Jerusalem, Sep 2 IANS | 3 months ago

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid Tuesday strongly criticised his government's decision to seize land in the West Bank, saying it would further damage the image of the Jewish state following this summer's offensive against Palestinians in Gaza.

"This was a grab that was not brought before the cabinet and at this time simply causes damage to the state of Israel," Lapid said at a press conference organised by a financial daily.

The Israeli government announced Sunday it would take over 400 hectares of land in the West Bank, arguing that there were no Palestinian claims on the land.

The decision opens the way to the future construction of homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank where Palestinians have been subject to decades of land seizures and illegal settlements.

It is located in the Bethlehem municipality, near a border area that Israel wants to annex in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party and one of the main partners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, said that the political situation was "sensitive" following the Israeli military offensive against Gaza in which close to 2,000 Palestinians were killed.

"What was so pressing precisely now to cause more crisis with the United States and the international community," Lapid asked.

Israel's announcement about the land seizure has been heavily criticised by Israeli NGOs and peace movements such as Peace Now which consider the decision as a new obstacle to a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he was alarmed by the announcement which he claimed would "pave the way for further settlement activity", while the Palestine Liberation Organisation said it showed Israel's rejection of the two-state solution.

(Posted on 02-09-2014)

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