President Obama yesterday continued to press his administration's tough stance on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, telling reporters after a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that Israel must halt all settlement activity to build momentum for peace.
Obama, who met last week with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said, "In my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I was very clear about the need to stop settlements, to make sure that we are stopping the building of outposts . . . to alleviate some of the pressures that the Palestinian people are under in terms of travel and commerce."
Obama noted that Palestinians also must improve security as part of their commitments under the 2003 "road map" for peace, though he added that the Palestinian Authority had made "great progress" with the assistance of a U.S. general.
The road-map plan commits Israel to dismantling settler outposts and freezing "all settlement activity," including building to accommodate what is known as "natural growth." But the near-daily barrage of U.S. demands that Israel halt settlement growth has surprised Israeli officials, who argue that they greatly restrained growth under an unwritten 2005 agreement with the Bush administration. Under that deal, Israel was to stop providing incentives for settlers to move to the West Bank and was to build only in areas it expected to keep in future peace agreements.