Quietly, Israel Backs Off New Settlements

Netanyahu talks tough, but US pressure keeps building suspended
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2009 9:19 AM CDT
Barack Obama, meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday, said that 'there has been movement in the right direction' in Israel.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a hawkish tone on settlements since returning to the Israeli premiership, and his cabinet ministers insisted as recently as Monday that "there is no choice but to continue building." But quietly, his government has agreed to Barack Obama's demand to end new construction in the West Bank, maintaining a moratorium on new bids since coming to power in March. For the Los Angeles Times, it's a sign that Netanyahu is trying to get peace talks back off the ground.

Last month Netanyahu publicly lashed out at the State Department for opposing a new settlement, saying "Jews have the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem"—but behind the scenes, he was working with a US envoy on a settlement freeze. Yesterday Obama, meeting with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, said he was pleased that Israel "has taken discussions with us very seriously." But right-wingers are furious; one Israeli group said the PM is "the old Bibi" who "capitulates in the face of American pressure."