State Dept.Softens Freeze Demand

The State Department may have toned down its demand on Israel to freeze construction within Judea and Samaria. The UN, however, remains chilled.

Avraham Zuroff, | updated: 08:04

George Mitchell (l)  with FM Lieberman
George Mitchell (l) with FM Lieberman
Israel news photo: (Flash 90)

The U.S. State Department may have toned down its demand on Israel to freeze construction within Judea and Samaria. In a press briefing Monday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly reiterated that the obligations signed by Israel under the Roadmap require Israel to freeze all construction within Judea and Samaria, including “natural growth.” Nevertheless, Kelly hinted that the U.S. is open to “negotiations.”

The official stated that both Israel and PA Arabs must honor their commitment to the Roadmap plan towards peace. “For the Palestinians, it means ending incitements to violence against Israel and demonstrating an ability to provide security. For Israel, it means: stop the settlements, which is laid out very specifically in the Roadmap. A freeze on all activity relating to settlements, including natural growth, is what it says in the Roadmap,” Kelly said.

Nevertheless, the spokesman hinted that a compromised agreement would be acceptable. “Well, inherent in the word ‘negotiation’ is, of course, sitting down and finding what one side – what the other side wants and then working out a way to come to a resolution that leads to our goal of a lasting peace in the Middle East,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to say we’re not willing to compromise or – I mean, let’s just see what happens,” the State Department official added, referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s intended meeting Tuesday with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

Barak plans to inform Mitchell during their meeting of a three-month freeze on new construction within Judea and Samaria. Barak’s meeting in New York comes after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled his meeting last week with Mitchell in Paris.

UN Remains Icy Cold
Although the United Nations has not softened its tone towards Israel, the Obama administration has nonetheless pledged to support Israel in the international forum, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador stated Monday.

Gabriela Shalev’s statement came while a U.N. commission of inquiry has heard testimony from Gaza residents regarding Israel’s Cast Lead Operation.

Michele Montas, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told the press Monday that Ban has “repeatedly made it clear that there must be a full freeze on settlement building, including from natural growth.”