Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today dismissed reports that Israel and the Bush administration had an understanding under which Israel could keep expanding settlements on the West Bank. Dov Weisglass, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote in an op-ed piece published this week in the Yediot Achronoth daily that the Bush administration and Israel had an understanding under which Israel could expand settlements within their existing boundaries. Speaking to reporters in Washington, Clinton sought to undercut Weisglass’ argument, saying there was no acknowledgment of any such agreement in the official negotiating record between Israel and the Bush administration.
“There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which of course people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government,” Clinton said at a news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“And there are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way contradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the road map,” Clinton added. “And those obligations are very clear.”
Clinton’s hard line suggests that U.S. President Barack Obama has no intention of relenting on his call for a settlement freeze by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The United States wants Israel to keep its commitment under the 2003 “road map” peace plan to halt all settlement activity, including so-called “natural growth,” under which new homes are built within existing enclaves for growing settler families.
Netanyahu on Monday defied the U.S. demand, saying Israel would keep building in existing settlements on territory Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.