Clinton clashes with Israelis over settlers

Discussion in 'Politics' started by sameeh55, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. Clinton clashes with Israelis over settlers
    By Daniel Dombey in Washington

    Published: June 18 2009 01:24 | Last updated: June 18 2009 01:24

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, clashed face to face with her Israeli counterpart on Wednesday as the two countries remained at loggerheads over the expansion of settlements in occupied territory.

    In what appeared one of the most tense encounters between the sides for several years, Mrs Clinton and Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, disagreed on both the US call for a complete freeze on settlement growth and Israel’s contention that the administration of George W. Bush, the former president, had signalled that some expansion was permissible.

    In response, Mrs Clinton underlined the US call for a “stop to the settlements”, a move she described as “an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement”.

    The meeting at the state department in Washington confirmed that the countries remain at odds on settlements, in spite of the decision of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, to endorse the goal of a Palestinian state. His declaration, which was subject to conditions, followed sustained US pressure.

    Wednesday’s encounter was all the more significant for Mr Lieberman’s record as the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, who blasted the previous Israeli government’s peace efforts. Mr Lieberman is not seen as a promising interlocutor by Barack Obama’s administration, which has instead focused its demands on Mr Netanyahu.

    “We must keep the natural growth,” Mr Lieberman said on Wednesday, referring to the argument that settlements sometimes need to expand to keep pace with births and marriages.

    The US argues that such references to “natural growth” have in fact enabled large-scale settlement growth in the past.

    While Mr Lieberman suggested that Israel had reached “some understandings with the previous [Bush] administration” allowing natural growth, Mrs Clinton vigorously rejected such a claim.

    “In looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements,” she said. “That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in positions of responsibility.”

    In a recent article in the Washington Post cited by Mrs Clinton on Wednesday, Daniel Kurtzer, the US ambassador to Israel between 2001 and 2005, argued there had been no understanding to permit natural growth. He ack_now_ledged that drafts at one time under discussion suggested that construction in built-up parts of settlements could be allowed, but added that no agreement had ever been reached.

    Another article by Elliot Abrams, Mr Bush’s former adviser on the Middle East, argued that the Obama administration’s emphasis on a settlement freeze would lead to “needless confrontation” with Israel.