complete defiance to US President Barack Obama’s powerful appeal to
halt settlement activity in the Palestinian territory, officials
said yesterday that Israel would not heed to halt work on lands the
Palestinians claim for a future state.
The government plans to allow construction inside existing West Bank
settlements to accommodate growing families (a policy dubbed
“natural growth”), said the officials, explaining a position that
looks sure to cause a serious policy clash with the United States.
Meanwhile, Jewish occupiers yesterday built a new settlement outpost
in the West Bank.
Israeli Radio said that occupiers built the new outpost near Kokhav
Yaakov settlement to the north of Jerusalem and cynically called it
Givat Obama, or Obama Hilltop.
The radio quoted the occupiers as saying that the name is “in
recognition of the president’s actions, which have led to a dramatic
increase in the number of outposts being built throughout the West
The government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to go beyond the formal response,
said that instead of halting all settlement activity, Israel planned
to take down 22 unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank in
the coming weeks. That balancing act — taking down outposts while
pressing ahead with so-called “natural growth” construction in the
settlements — is not likely to go down well in Washington.
Meanwhile, prodding the international community in Germany, Obama
yesterday called “for all of us to redouble our efforts” toward a
two-state solution. The president announced he was dispatching
special envoy George J. Mitchell back to the region next week to
follow up on his speech in Cairo. Alongside German Chancellor Angela
Merkel following his Mideast trip, Obama said: “The United States
can’t force peace upon the parties.” But he said America has “at
least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can
The president urged Palestinians and Arab neighbors to do their part
by making “tough choices” to defuse the situation in the region.
Merkel said she believed Obama’s efforts could make headway toward a
two-state solution. “I believe that with the new American
administration, with President Barack Obama, there is actually a
unique opportunity now to see to it that this peace process — or
let’s perhaps be more careful — this negotiation process to be
revived again,” she said.
Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat said that
40 percent of West Bank is “under the control of the empire of
Jewish settlers.” Erekat added the “ongoing settlement activities
contradict the international law and legitimacy.”
— With input from Mohammed Mar’i