Israel-US settlement dispute remains unresolved

Sunday, June 28, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to depart for Washington on Monday to try and calm growing tension between Israel and the US over the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to comply with President Barack Obama's demand for a complete halt to Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.

Barak noted that a deep rift remains between the two sides over the issue, especially as it regards the natural growth of Jewish communities in those areas and the building of homes in neighborhoods on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

According to a report in Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, on Sunday, Barak plans to offer the Americans a full construction freeze for three months in order to get the land-for-peace process back on track, with the understanding that after that time Washington will support the natural growth of larger Jewish settlements.

Right-wing members of the cabinet responded in outrage, noting that this wouldn't be the first time Barak had miscalculated and made offers he had no mandate to make. Barak's previous term as prime minister came to an abrupt end in 2000 when he made far reaching concessions to the Palestinians at Camp David leading to the exit of several coalition members from his government and his defeat in a no-confidence vote in the Knesset.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday that he had found a receptive audience for his new peace policies when he visited European capitals last week.

Netanyahu said most European leaders had no problem with his demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, that a future Palestinian state be demilitarized and that a final status peace agreement be the end of all Arab demands on Israel.

Netanyahu said that without these demands being met, his government would never sign a peace deal with the Palestinians.

He also reminded the opposition Kadima Party that these demands are supported by a vast majority of Israelis, and urged Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to also get behind them.

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