Israel to Let Settlements Expand

PM rebuffs Obama, backing 'natural growth' in West Bank
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2009 7:17 PM CDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, front right, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, May 24, 2009.   (AP Photos/Gali Tibbon, Pool)
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(Newser) – Israel will let settlements grow in the occupied West Bank despite President Obama's call to freeze expansion, Haaretz reports. "We do not intend to build any new settlements," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today, "but it wouldn't be fair to ban construction to meet the needs of natural growth." Less than a week ago, Obama asked Netanyahu to curb settlements as a prelude to peace talks with Palestine.

A Netanyahu spokesman said peace talks themselves will determine the settlements' future. "In the interim period, we have to allow normal life in those communities to continue," he said. But Netanyahu has so far refused to negotiate with Palestine on territorial matters. Addressing the settlement issue by targeting small outposts, Israel razed one near Ramallah last week, but residents quickly came back to rebuild.