Monday, May 25, 2009

Construction to Continue in Israeli Settlements

From the Washington Post Foreign Service, Monday, May 25, 2009, by Howard Schneider:

JERUSALEM, May 24 -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that construction will continue in existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, despite a call by President Obama for it to be stopped, according to an Israeli official.

Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the settlement issue since returning from meetings with Obama and other U.S. officials last week.

In briefing his cabinet on those meetings, however, Netanyahu said he would not halt building or population growth in dozens of established settlements that house about 250,000 Israelis throughout the West Bank, said the official, who paraphrased Netanyahu's remarks.

Israeli officials say they do intend to remove about two dozen unauthorized settlement outposts and will not establish new settlements. Palestinian officials consider both of those steps to be of marginal significance.

Netanyahu's comments to his cabinet mark the second time since returning from Washington that he has highlighted significant differences with Obama in regard to Israel's treatment of land whose ultimate status is under discussion.

Netanyahu's comments to his cabinet mark the second time since returning from Washington that he has highlighted significant differences with Obama in regard to Israel's treatment of land whose ultimate status is under discussion.

Last week, at a ceremony marking the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Netanyahu said the city "has always been -- and always will be -- ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel's sovereignty."

Palestinians want to form the capital of a future state in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and the United States regards the city's fate as a matter for negotiations.
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