U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out swinging at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday night and specifically rejected his policy for allowing building for “natural growth" in Judea and Samaria.
Her statement came on the eve of Thursday’s visit of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, which two weeks ago told Israel to stop all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria.
"The president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions," Secretary Clinton said at a news conference with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. She also dined with Abbas Wednesday night.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Netanyahu government, immediately responded and said that life will continue as usual for residents in towns and cities in Judea and Samaria. He said that the future of the areas will be settled in negotiations. The PA, with support from the Obama government, has implicitly said that negotiation are only possible once its demands are met.
After returning from Washington, Netanyahu took steps to please the American government and announced that his administration will remove 26 hilltop communities and outposts. They are termed illegal because they were established after the Sharon government agreed to a U.S. demand not to establish more communities in Judea and Samaria.
However, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear he would not capitulate to all of the PA demands that are backed by the Obama government. Both he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have said they cannot “tell families not to have babies” in Judea and Samaria, where growth outstrips the population increase in the rest of the country.
The Obama administration has not declared whether its demand includes Jerusalem neighborhoods over which the PA also wants sovereignty for its proposed new Arab country, which would give it control of all of the land restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last year reversed American policy and defined as a “settlement” the neighborhood of Har Homa, which has the same legal status as French Hill, Talpiot, Ramot and Gilo. All of the neighborhoods were annexed to Jerusalem nearly 30 years ago but are not recognized by the international community as part of the capital.
The annexation prompted the removal of all embassies that were located in Jerusalem, leaving consulates in the city.