The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have come under threat after Israel’s housing minister said his office would start long-term planning to build more than 20,000 homes in a particularly sensitive area near Jerusalem.
The move by Housing Minister Uri Ariel immediately drew fierce criticism from the Palestinians, with President Mahmoud Abbas threatening to call off the talks with Israel that began in the summer.
The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the Israeli plans in an area known as E1, which is in the West Bank, just to the east of Jerusalem.
In an effort to dampen down the controversy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his housing minister to reconsider the plans, adding that the move had not been coordinated with his office.
“In [Netanyahu’s] conversation instructing Ariel to re-examine the potential construction, the prime minister emphasized that the tenders have no legal or practical significance that creates unnecessary friction with the international community at a time when Israel is trying to recruit it for a better deal on Iran,” the newspaper reported.
“Netanyahu also told Ariel that he expects him to coordinate with him on such moves before going ahead. Ariel explained that these are only potential plans and have not reached any formal stage,” the newspaper added.
Australia, Sydney Morning Herald
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Wednesday that he was quitting politics.
“It really is time for me to zip,” he told the House of Representatives. The newspaper described the comments as a “bombshell announcement.”
The resignation goes into effect at the end of the week, forcing an election in the Brisbane seat he holds in parliament.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised Rudd’s service, calling his predecessor “one of the big figures.”
Rudd, a former diplomat, served twice as prime minister – the first time in 2007. He was a popular public figure, but members of his own party turned against him and he was ousted by his deputy, Julia Gillard.
In June, he defeated Gillard in a leadership battle and became prime minister ahead of the election in September, which his Labor Party lost to Abbott’s Liberal Party.
Argentina, La Nacion
A former army officer jailed for crimes against humanity escaped while being taken to court in Buenos Aires.
Alejandro Lawless, 65, who was sentenced for kidnapping, torturing and killing political opponents during 1976-83 military rule, escaped from a police van outside the court. He’d been found guilty in 2010.
This is the third instance of a convicted military officer escaping from custody. All are still at large.