White House denounces Israeli settlement plans 4Sep09 September 5, 2009

by Steve Holland  – Reuters  -  4 September 2009

Robert Gibbs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Friday expressed regret at Israeli plans to build new settler homes before considering a freeze, calling the move counter-productive to efforts to launch peace negotiations.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reacted after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans were announced.

President Barack Obama has been pressuring Israel to halt settlement construction, a major obstacle in stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, so it can announce a resumption of the negotiations later this month.

“We regret the reports of Israel’s plans to approve additional settlement construction,” Gibbs said, calling the activity inconsistent with Israel’s commitment under a long-standing peace plan.

“As the president has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate,” he said.

The Obama administration has been holding out the possibility of a three-way meeting in New York later this month between Obama, Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas if there can be sufficient progress toward resuming long-stalled peace talks.

Gibbs said the United States appreciates Israel’s stated intention to place limits on settlement activity and will continue to discuss this with the Israelis “as these limitations are defined.”

He said the U.S. goal is a two-state solution with a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.

“Our objective remains to resume meaningful negotiations as soon as possible in pursuit of this goal. We are working with all parties — Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab states — on the steps they must take to achieve that objective,” Gibbs said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Vicki Allen)

© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved.

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