Israel says it won't change its settlement policy despite new demands
by the President of the United States. The settlers have announced
their own response to U.S. pressure.
Israel says it will not halt
construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, despite President
Barack Obama's insistence on a settlement freeze. Mr. Obama most
recently made the demand Thursday in his Cairo speech to the Muslim
The issue has raised tensions between the new, right-wing
government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S.
administration, which sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.
spokesman Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington,
says Israel reserves the right to build in existing settlements to
accommodate "natural growth."
"No democratic government can be
expected to stop people, hundreds of thousands of people, living
legally and under the law, wherever they live, of having children or
putting up additional buildings. Look, this is not a dispute; this is a
fact of life," he said.
As a concession to Washington, Israel
has begun dismantling some small, illegal settlement outposts as part
of its commitment under the "roadmap" peace plan, but with little
success. On Friday, settlers returned to the outpost of Oz Yonatan near
the Palestinian-ruled city of Ramallah, after it was dismantled by the
army earlier this week.
message is very clear: Obama, no you can't. You can't give away the land
of the Bible that belongs to the people of the Bible," said settlement activist Nadia Matar.
officials say Mr. Obama's call for a settlement freeze is a good start.
But they say the test will be converting words to deeds.