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U.S. Middle East Policy

White House ‘Softens’ Bush Statement on Israeli Settlements

Palestinian MP: Israeli Policies Make ‘Bush’s Vision’ Unsustainable

By Palestine Media Center
April 7, 2005

Backtracking on George W. Bush’s call on Israel Tuesday to stop all settlement expansion, the White House on Wednesday softened the US President’s stance and said that the upcoming meeting between him and the Israeli Prime Minister will focus mainly on Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” plan from the Gaza Strip, and not on expanding the illegal Jewish colony of “Maaleh Adumim,” only hours after the Palestinian President welcomed Bush’s statement.

“Our position is very clear, that the roadmap is important, and the roadmap calls for no expansion of the settlements,” Bush told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday defied Bush’s call and confirmed that Israel was sticking to a plan to extend “Maale Adumim”- its largest illegal Jewish settlement- to Jerusalem, despite the US President’s demand for a halt to all Jewish settlement expansion.

Livni acknowledged there are serious differences between Israel and the United States over Jewish settlement expansion.

“It seems that the debate is more over whether Israel can expand the perimeters of these communities, and certainly from an American viewpoint, as well, Israel can build within them,” she told Israel’s Army Radio. “There apparently will be disputes with the Americans over this.”

Livni said that despite such differences, Israel should still be able to “strengthen” settlements.

“The US is refraining from supporting Israel’s plans for future building (in settlements) but that does not mean Israel should not strengthen (the settlements),” she said.

White House Backtracks

Washington seemed to succumb to Israeli insistence on expanding the “Maaleh Adumim” colony.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan clarified that the disengagement plan will be the focus of the Bush-Sharon meeting. However, regarding “Maaleh Adumim,” Israel will be reminded of its commitments under the Roadmap, including freezing settlement construction, he said.

McClellan told reporters, who were accompanying Bush who was on his way to Rome, to take part in Pope John Paul II’s funeral that the upcoming Bush–Sharon will focus on Sharon’s plan to “disengage” from the Gaza Strip and complimented the Israeli prime minister’s plan as “bold.”

PNA Welcomes Bush Statement

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) meanwhile welcomed Bush’s statement.

A spokesman for President Abbas said on Wednesday that he “welcomes President Bush’s statement concerning the necessity of implementing the roadmap and stopping all settlement activity.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also welcomed Bush’s statement but urged the US President to exert every possible effort to stop Israel’s settlement activities.

“I urge President Bush to exert every possible effort to stop the settlement activities and the (Apartheid Barrier that the Jewish state is building on occupied Palestinian land) wall in order to maintain and sustain his vision of a two-state solution,” Erakat said.

The Wall annexes “Maaleh Adumim” to the Israeli side.

Palestinian MP: Israeli Policies Make Bush’s Vision Unsustainable

However, a Palestinian lawmaker said Wednesday that Israeli settlement activities render Bush’s vision of a two-state solution unsustainable.

Palestinian legislator from occupied Jerusalem Hatim Abd al-Qadir warned Wednesday that the Israeli settlement policy, along with US reluctance to exert meaningful pressure on the Jewish state, make the creation of a viable Palestinian state unrealistic if not outright impossible.

“I believe we are getting very close to the point where the conflict becomes unsolvable,” the Fatah legislator said in an interview with on Wednesday.

Abd al-Qadir said the proliferation of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank was seriously changing the demography of the region.

More than 160 Jewish colonies, including 31 in east Jerusalem, are occupied by 400,000 illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967 when there was no Jewish presence whatsoever.

None of the Jews lived in east Jerusalem when the Jewish state occupied it in 1967. Currently, there are more than 220,000 illegal settlers in the Holy City.

“Israel is settling as many Jews as possible in the West Bank, and now they are importing people from India in order to give them our land,” he said, referring to efforts by the Israeli chief rabbinate to convert an Indian tribe that some rabbis say has Jewish roots.

The two-state solution is becoming increasingly unrealistic or “nearly impossible” because “very little room” had been left for a truly viable Palestinian state, which would perpetuate the conflict, he said.

Abd al-Qadir warned the government of Palestinian President Abbas would “very likely” collapse if Israel refused to stop settlement expansion.

“He (Abbas) made certain promises during his election campaigns. If he fails to fulfill them, then he will have to answer to the people who elected him,” Abd al-Qadir said.

The collapse of the Abbas government, or his resignation, would certainly result in a massive eruption of violence against the Israeli occupation, he predicted.

“If the Palestinians are pushed to the corner, then, yes, Hamas, Fatah, everybody, would resort once again to armed resistance,” he said adding: “And in this case the theatre wouldn't be confined to Palestine, but the region as a whole.”

The Israeli colonization of Jerusalem and Sharon’s government’s policy of isolating the Holy City from the rest of the occupied Palestinian land is a Palestinian red line.

Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, head of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS), said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved until an agreement on Jerusalem is reached.

He contended that the main reason the 2000 Camp David summit failed was because neither Israel nor the United States were properly prepared on the issue of Jerusalem.

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