Palestinian, Arab, Islamic warnings against Israel’s construction plans in Jerusalem

U.S. urged to immediately intervene to deter Israel

Turkey closes airspace to Israeli flights

U.S.-Israel relations suffering “tectonic rift,” says Israeli ambassador in Washington

Barak proposes plan in U.S. to start peace negotiations with Syria

Arab Inter-parliamentary Union (AIPU) Secretary General Nour El-Din Boushkouj called on all world parliaments and the international community to practice pressures on the Israeli occupation authorities to release Palestinian parliamentarians from Israeli jails and abolish military decisions to banish them from Jeruslaem and Palestinian territories.

Boushkouj, in press statements, condemned the occupation authorities’ demolition of Palestinian homes to force their owners to move away and refusal to grant construction licenses for the Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, to build new houses to cope with the normal increase in population.

“The Israeli violations and crimes have even extended to include mosques and churches by denying access to worshippers to go to Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said during an AIPU conference in the Sultanate of Oman.

Meanwhile, The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) warned on Monday of an Israeli plan to expand Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem on Palestinian-owned property.

"Such Israeli plans will negatively impact the U.S-sponsored indirect peace talks," PNA spokesman Nabil Abu Rdineh said in a press release.

Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Monday that the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve "an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem."

The daily added that the move is largely based on construction on privately owned Arab property.

Abu Rdineh urged the U.S. administration to rapidly move to stop Israel's plans "that blocks the progress of the peace process. "

The United States sponsors indirect proximity talks between the Palestinians and the Israeli which started in May.

The indirect talks are scheduled to last four months, aimed at bridging the gap between the two parties and confidence building to head for direct negotiations.

Palestinians say talks can not witness success as long as Israel is continuing settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and the eastern Arab section of East Jerusalem which they want as a future capital.

The PNA on Wednesday welcomed statements by a European Union (EU) official that described Israel's policy of house demolitions in Jerusalem as "an obstacle to peace."

"Such statements are encouraging," Palestinian official Wafa news agency quoted the PNA's spokesman Nabil Abu Rdineh as saying.

"The EU's stance is a clear message to Israel that peacemaking is in danger because of its practices on the ground," he added.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday in a statement that "settlements and the demolition of homes are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible."

On Sunday, Israeli police and Palestinian protestors clashed in Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem where the Jewish state is going to demolish 22 Palestinian-owned houses for settlement purposes.

Abu Rdineh urged the United States and the international Quartet to take "decisive steps to stop Israel's plans in Jerusalem that would definitely harm the peace process."

Israel's Channel 10 news reported on Wednesday that work began to construct a new neighborhood for settlers in the Shepherd Hotel complex in East Jerusalem.

Fatah official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, Hatem Abdul Qader, told Xinhua that this act proves Israel's intention to thwart the U.S.-mediated proximity talks.

In May, the Palestinians and Israel went for indirect proximity talks under an American umbrella.

The four-month proximities are meant to bridge the gap between the two sides to resume direct talks which halted in 2008 when Israel launched an all-out attack on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

In Ankara, Turkey has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights following a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, the Turkish prime minister and officials said Monday. An official said civilian commercial flights were not affected.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Toronto that Turkey imposed a ban on Israeli flights after the May 31 raid on a Turkish ship that was part of a six-vessel international aid flotilla, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

The prime minister, who is in Canada to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major industrial and developing nations, did not elaborate.

A Turkish government official said, however, that the ban was for Israeli military flights and that commercial flights were not affected. It was not a blanket ban and each flight request would be assessed case-by-case, the official added. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules that bar officials from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

On Sunday, Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that Turkey had not allowed a plane carrying Israeli military officers, en route to a tour of memorial sites in Auschwitz, Poland, to fly over Turkish airspace.

The transport plane, with more than 100 officers on board, was forced to make a detour, the paper said.

The Israeli military "refrained from responding officially to the event so not to exacerbate the rift in relations," the newspaper added.

The Israeli prime minister’s office had no comment on Erdogan's statements.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed in the raid that drew Turkish outrage and widespread international condemnation.

The aid ships were sailing to Gaza to break an Israeli blockade that it said it imposed to keep weapons and other military components out of the hands of Gaza militants who have attacked Israel with bombs, rockets and mortars for years.

Israel insists troops involved in the deadly raid acted in self-defense after being attacked by some of the activists on board.

Turkey, which had a close alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war, which ended in early 2009, withdrew its ambassador and canceled joint military drills in response to the raid. It has said it will not return its ambassador and will reduce military and trade ties unless Israel apologizes for the raid. It also wants Israel to return the seized aid ships, agree to an international investigation and offer compensation for the victims.

"Up to now, we have done whatever is necessary within the rules of law — whether national or international — and we will continue to do so," Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying, adding that ties with Israel could return to normal if the Jewish state meets Turkey's demands.

"We are not interested in making a show. We don't desire such a thing and we have been very patient in the face of these developments," he said, according to Anatolia.

Israel has objected to an international inquiry into the operation and has set up its own investigative commission that includes two foreign observers.

On the other hand, Israel’s ambassador to Washington said that relations between Israel and its most staunch ally, the US, have suffered a “tectonic rift”.

Michael Oren briefed Israeli diplomats on the deterioration between the countries ahead of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House early next month.

Oren said the situation had moved beyond a crisis that eventually passes. “There is no crisis in Israel-US relations, because in a crisis there are ups and downs,” he told the diplomats in Jerusalem. “Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart.” His analysis will alarm Israel’s political establishment, which is feeling isolated internationally and under pressure to take concrete steps over the blockade of Gaza and settlement building in the West Bank.

Oren said President Barack Obama made judgments about Israel on the basis of cold calculation, in contrast to predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who were motivated by historical and ideological factors. He suggested Obama was less likely to be influenced by pro-Israel supporters inside or outside the White House. “This is a one-man show,” he was quoted as saying.

Netanyahu and Obama are due to meet in Washington on July 6th after talks were postponed following Israel’s lethal assault on the aid flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu is keen for the meeting to be seen as a success after a string of difficult issues ruptured relations. At his last visit to Washington, Obama declined to hold a photo call with him.

The agenda of next week’s meeting is unlikely to prove painless for Netanyahu. As well as discussing the flotilla debacle, Obama is expected to press for further action to allow imports, exports and people to move more freely to and from Gaza. Obama is expected to again raise the vexed issue of settlement construction. The 10-month partial freeze, wrung out of Netanyahu after months of pressure, is due to end in late September.

Oren’s remarks go further than comments he made in March after the crisis over an Israeli announcement of a big expansion in a Jerusalem settlement during a visit by US vice-president Joe Biden. Then, Oren told colleagues US-Israeli relations were at their worst in 35 years.

Netanyahu delivered a robust speech to the Israeli parliament last week, warning that the Jewish state’s legitimacy was under attack and criticizing the UN and other international bodies for condemning Israeli policies and actions.

Also in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak focused on reviving direct Israeli-Palestinian talks "as soon as possible", a US official said.

The pair also reviewed Israel's announcement at the weekend to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip, run by the militant Hamas group, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

"They discussed the prospects for a comprehensive peace in the region, with a renewed focus on moving as soon as possible from proximity to direct negotiations to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he added.

The Palestinians reluctantly agreed to launch the indirect talks in May after months of shuttle diplomacy by US envoy George Mitchell, but said they would not move to direct talks without a complete Israeli settlement freeze.

Crowley said it was likely Mitchell, who returned at the weekend from another tour of the Middle East, attended the talks with Barak and Clinton at the State Department on Wednesday.

The State Department has welcomed Israel's plans to ease its Gaza blockade and believes the move will greatly improve living conditions in the Palestinian enclave once it is actually implemented.

Israel announced at the weekend it would allow all strictly "civilian" goods into Gaza while preventing a specific list of weapons and dual-use items from entering the Hamas-run territory.

The diplomatic quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations plan to watch the implementation closely.

Crowley said Clinton would "note that the US, along with the quartet ...., the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and other concerned parties, will work with Israel to help ensure implementation of this new policy."

But the United States expects more from Israel, he added.

"I'm sure she will also mention that, while .... this is an important step forward, but there is still more progress to be made," Crowley said.

"And I'm sure she will welcome, too, Israel's formation of an independent public commission, including outside international observers to investigate the tragic events on board the flotilla headed toward Gaza," he said.

He added that the pair will also "discuss Israel's legitimate and urgent security concerns, including Syria, Iran, and Hamas and Hezbollah."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority has been confined to the occupied West Bank since Hamas seized power in Gaza and ousted his forces in 2007, insisted Israel must completely lift the four-year-old blockade.