Lieberman to Clinton: Israel will not stop settlement expansion in West Bank
by Joshua Lapide
It is an open challenge to the USA who wants a freeze on colonies in the West bank and East Jerusalem. The fears of Peace Now. UN says all settlements are illegal.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has confirmed that his country will not stop settler expansion in the West Bank. “We have no intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria”, said Lieberman, using the right wing Israeli definition of the occupied Territories.

The latest affirmation of Israeli intentions came during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. On weeks ago Clinton had demanded a total settlement freeze “without exception or natural growth” and a return to peace negotiations. Barack Obama also, in his address in Cairo, had underlined the importance of halting settlement growth which is destroying the territory in of a future Palestinian State.

In what appears an open challenge to the American Administration, Lieberman stated that “we cannot accept a vision of stopping completely the settlements. We have to keep the natural growth”.

Clinton instead responded : “we want to see a stop to the settlements….that is an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state next to an Israeli Jewish state that is secure in its borders and future”.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell has met with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and is outing pressure on the Israeli government to call and end to the Gaza blockade and a halt to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

US Israeli negotiations are centred on the need to freeze all settlement construction and stop the expansion of already existing colonies. But according to the UN all settlements in the West Bank are illegal because built on forcibly occupied lands.  (ref 03/06/2009  Obama is looking for Mideast friends, but must stop Israeli settlements). Some half a million Jews live among nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories which were captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

According to Peace Now, an Israeli organisation for human rights Israel is trying to force the US to be more elastic on the issue to allow greater colony growth in the Occupied Territories.