The U.S. government does not dictate what happens in Israel, regardless of all the foreign aid it sends to the Jewish state. And despite U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement Wednesday that expansion of West Bank settlements must cease, an Israeli official says construction will continue. More from Haaretz:
Israel contests that new construction must take place to accommodate for expanding families inside the existing settlements, which the U.S. and much of the world consider an obstacle to peace because they are built on land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
When asked to respond to Clinton’s call for a total settlement freeze, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that normal life in those communities must be allowed to continue. Pressed on whether the phrase normal life meant some construction will take place in existing settlements, Regev said it did.
He noted that Israel has pledged to build no new settlements and to remove
unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. “The fate of existing settlements will be determined in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.
Regev’s remarks echoed those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has said Israel will continue to allow natural growth in the settlements - a
vague term that refers to construction in existing settlements to accommodate growing families.
The new U.S. administration has been noticeably more explicit in its criticism of Israeli settlement policy than its predecessor.
The two countries each have new leaders with strikingly different approaches to Israeli-Palestinian relations, with Netanyahu refusing to endorse Palestinian independence, a notion supported by Obama, his predecessor and the previous Israeli government.
Clinton said Wednesday the U.S. wants a halt to all settlement construction—including their natural growth.