US President Barack Obama has told Israel he wants no “natural growth exceptions” to his call for a freeze in West Bank settlements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Her remarks about settlements during the visit of Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit of Egypt, a key mediator in peace talks, were the most explicit yet since Obama came to office in January.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday he did not intend to build new settlements, “but it makes no sense to ask us not to answer to the needs of natural growth and to stop all construction,” aides said.
But Clinton on Wednesday said the “president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here during his visit to the White House on May 18.
“He wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,” Clinton said.
“We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in, that settlement expansion cease,” she said. “That is our position, that is what we have communicated very clearly not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point,” she said.