Monday, June 01, 2009

US reneges, but Israel won't freeze settlement construction

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 1, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

Israel will not freeze settlement construction for natural growth ...there is no reason housing units cannot be built inside the major settlement blocs for people who want to move there, as well as for natural growth.

In light of unequivocal comments made over the last week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an end to all settlement construction, including for natural growth, as well as US and Israeli officials' failure to reach an agreement on this issue in London last week, there is a great deal of frustration over the matter in the Prime Minister's Office.

....dialogue on the matter is continuing, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak expected to discuss the matter Monday in New York with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, and then later in the week with US Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser James Jones.

Representing the left flank of the Netanyahu government, Barak has made it clear that he, too, feels it is illogical and impossible to completely stop all construction in the settlements.

...Considering Clinton's comments that there should be absolutely no new construction anywhere in the settlements, there is heightened concern in Jerusalem that her words presage the beginning of a rollback of understandings on settlement construction that were reached with the Bush administration, and that were anchored in then-president George W. Bush's 2004 letter to former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Elliott Abrams, the former deputy national security adviser who was intimately involved in the issue, acknowledged these understandings in a Washington Post article in April, in which he said, "For the past five years, Israel's government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States ...that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth ..."

The current sense in Jerusalem is that a demand for Israel to stop all construction runs contrary to these guidelines, leading to the argument that if the US does not honor its previous understandings with Israel, then it has little right to demand that Israel live up to commitments it made in the past, such as taking down settlement outposts...
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