Middle East

Israel has 'right' to settle in West Bank: president

An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Aug 24, 2015 (AFP) - President Reuven Rivlin said during talks with settler leaders on Monday that Israel had a "right" to build settlements in the occupied West Bank, his office said in a statement.

"I love the land of Israel with all my heart. I have never and will never give up on this land. For me, our right to this land is not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism," Rivlin said,

For Rivlin the "land of Israel" includes the occupied West Bank where Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law.

The settlements are considered a major obstacle to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, who see the land as part of a future independent state.

Western nations have called repeatedly on Israel to halt such projects.

"We must not give anyone the sense that we are in any doubt about our right to our land. For me, the settlement of the land of Israel is an expression of that right, our historical right, our national right," Rivlin said.

His comments come at a time of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians following the death in July of a Palestinian toddler and his father in an arson attack on their home.

In the wake of the firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, three alleged Jewish extremists were placed in administrative detention.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet domestic security agency said the deadly attack had "emanated" from a wildcat Jewish settlement outpost near Duma.

The agency said "restraining orders" restricting the movement of 10 activists had been issued as a result.

Rivlin condemned "Jewish terrorism" after the July arson attack in a post on Facebook, which was later followed by death threats against him.

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