Settlement Freeze: Obama Administration Applauds Netanyahu’s Plan
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. The Obama Administration met the plan with praise.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomats to stress Israel’s position on the settlement freeze and its importance to international audiences. Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said it was “a gesture, first of all, to the president of the United States.”
The settlement freeze does not include construction in East Jerusalem and excludes more than 2,500 housing units being built or recently authorized. The freeze still allows for some schools, synagogues and community centers to be built. This type of growth was banned in the Road Map signed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said the freeze was a unilateral act by Israel, not the product of any negotiations between Israel and the United States. Referring to negotiations, Secretary of State Clinton said that Palestinians have a goal of “an independent and viable state based on 1967 lines, with agreed swaps.” The comment was noteworthy because U.S. officials in previous administrations have not spoken of final borders based on that boundary, known as the Green Line.
The Palestinian reaction was unenthusiastic and pessimistic. Palestinians rejected the freeze because it did not include East Jerusalem, and have refused to resume peace talks while construction continues. Chief negotiator Sayeb Erekat stated that any freeze that did not include East Jerusalem was unacceptable.
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