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Netanyahu Visits Jewish Settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid his first official visit to Jewish settlements in the West Bank on Tuesday, adding new fuel to steadily-mounting tensions with the Palestinians.

While Netanyahu’s visit in itself was not exceptional, since Labor Party leaders had also visited the settlements and the settlers are a solid portion of Netanyahu’s right-wing constituency, it came in the wake of a tense confrontation around a settlement in the Gaza Strip, and against a steady drumbeat of mutual recriminations over the deadlock in the talks over Hebron.

Greeted by a choir of schoolchildren in the large settlement of Ariel, and by chanting religious students in nearby Eli, Netanyahu issued a combative retort to critics of the settlements at home and abroad. His words won predictable plaudits from the settlers, who have been increasingly restive in the first months of Netanyahu’s prime ministry, as he appeared reluctant initially to approve a major new settlement drive and, in recent weeks, concentrated on negotiating a withdrawal from Hebron.

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