Thursday, 2 July 2009

BBC on Israeli Settlement Politics

Israel downplays settlement rift

Workers build houses at Adam settlement, West Bank (29.06.09)
Building was under way at Adam settlement on Monday

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has denied any impasse with the US over Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank as talks ended without agreement.

Mr Barak met US envoy George Mitchell as the two allies are struggling to end a rare public rift over the issue.

The US wants Israel to stop all settlement activity in the occupied territory, but Israel wants to continue what it calls "natural growth".

The Palestinians refuse to restart talks without a settlement freeze.

"I don't think we are stuck," Mr Barak said after the meeting with Mr Mitchell on Tuesday.

He said the talks were "positive" although there were still differences, and later told Israeli radio the two sides were close to reaching a compromise.

Asked whether Israel would offer a temporary halt to settlement activity, of three to six months, Mr Barak said it was "a little bit too early to predict".

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