The White House has toughened its tone against Israeli settlements on the eve of a meeting between Barack Obama and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The US president reiterated demands he made to the Israeli prime minister ten days ago, that Israel stops expanding its presence in occupied territories.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “Clearly Mr Abbas’ meeting with President Obama on the 28th of this month is a very crucial meeting, especially in the aftermath of Mr Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama. We appreciate very much what was said by President Obama to Mr Netanyahu, vis-a-vis his obligations on freezing the settlement activities, including natural growth (and) the two-state solution obligations.”
Half a million Jews live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many Palestinians believe the outposts are an Israeli ploy to deny them their own state.
In Ramallah, resident Mahmoud Kafa said: “Settlements are the main obstacle to peace and a final agreement. Real pressure from America might stop the settlement building.”
Despite close ties between the US and Israel, Obama and Netanyahu were at odds over the expansion of Israeli settlements. In Washington, the Israeli prime minister said that his government “does not accept limitations on building” in Jerusalem though there are no plans for new projects in the West Bank.
Netanyahu is showing little sign of endorsing a Palestinian state, and Abbas has said he will not re-start peace talks until he does.