By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
JERUSALEM, Israel/West Bank – An Israeli government spokesman said on May 28 that Israel must be allowed to expand its settlements in the West Bank, echoing the sentiments of Israeli’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to his cabinet on May 24. Mark Regev, speaking on May 27, said that any final arrangements regarding West Bank settlements would have to be part of any agreement with the Palestinians, but that until such an agreement is reached, Israeli settlements would be allowed to expand to compensate for “natural growth.”
Approximately 500,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements inside the West Bank and in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem, areas which were captured by Israeli in 1967 and which many Palestinians believe will be the basis of a future Palestinian state. While the Israeli government has condemned the twenty-two settlements, deeming them to be illegal, the organization Peace Now estimates that fifty such settlements have been built since 2001 and Israeli settlements currently take up approximately 40% of the land in the West Bank.
Under international law, such settlements are illegal because they are on land that Palestinians claim form their independent state. In the U.S.-supported roadmap peace plan, Israel must stop all settlement activity, and specifically included natural growth.
On May 27, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that construction of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank must immediately stop. During his meeting with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on May 28, U.S. president Barack Obama repeated his call for a freeze on settlement construction, and said that he expected to hear a response from Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly. Middle East experts have called the Obama Administration’s response to the current settlement expansion the strongest on the issue from the U.S. in years.
For more information, please see:
Irish Times – Israel to Allow Expansion in Settlements – 29 May 2009
New York Times – Obama Calls for Swift Move Toward Mideast Peace Talks – 28 May 2009
BBC News – No Exception in Israeli Settlement: Clinton – 28 May 2009
New York Times – Israel Insists on Some Construction in West Bank Settlements – 28 May 2009
Al-Jazeera – Netanyahu: Settlements to Expand – 25 May 2009
Palestine Monitor – Obama’s Logic vs. Netanyahu’s Rhetoric – 20 May 2009