Israel rejects U.S. call for freeze on West Bank settlements

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly rejected calls to end settlements in the occupied West Bank on Sunday after Netanyahu was pressed by the Obama administration to halt all settlement activity during a meeting last week in Washington.

PM Netanyahu

Obama criticized settlement activity saying, "On the Israeli side, those obligations include stopping settlements. They include making sure that there is a viable, substantial Palestinian state."

Obama's requests were quickly met with rejection from the Israeli government, "I want to say in a crystal clear manner that the current Israeli government will not accept in any fashion that legal settlement activity be frozen," said Israeli transportation minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday.

Netanyahu also stated that Israel would not accept limits on housing development in Jerusalem, a city which Palestine hopes to make the capital of its future state. Israeli science minister, Daniel Herschkowitz, equated Obama's pleas to end settlement activity to the Pharaoh's decree that "every son that is born ye shall cast into the river."

Although the U.S. has verbally stated it wants to see an end to settlement activity, Israel is still the largest recipient of United States aid annually, receiving US$3 billion in financial aid and advanced military weaponry.

In related news, a law in Israel that would make refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state illegal was rejected by an Israeli government committee today. Along with outlawing the marking of the Nabka, the bill would have made any "call to negate Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, where the content of such publication would have a reasonable possibility of causing an act of hatred, disdain or disloyalty," a punishable offense imprisonable for up to one year.