Israel cracks down on Hebron protests; Clinton denies secret deal on settlements

Israeli soldiers shut down a non-violent protest in Hebron June 6, declaring the area a “Closed Military Zone” and harassing international peace activists and Palestinians. The protest was against the expansion of the illegal Susya settlement of south of Hebron, which has recently added several trailer homes outside the initial settlement boundaries. Verbal clashes and heated arguments erupted as troops barred protesters from entering the area—though the soldiers claimed the area was closed because they feared violence from settlers against the protesters. (Ma’an News Agency, June 6)

The New York Times reported days earlier that unnamed “senior Israeli officials” had accused President Obama of failing to acknowledge what they called understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement “freeze.”

The officials claimed that when Israel signed on to the so-called “road map” for a two-state solution in 2003, with a provision that says its government “freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements),” it did so after a detailed discussion with Bush administration officials that laid out those explicit exceptions. “Not everything is written down,” one of the officials reportedly said. (NYT, June 6)

Dov Weisglass, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, made the case in an op-ed piece published this week in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, asserting that the Bush administration had secretly agreed to expanding Jewish settlements on the West Bank within their existing boundaries.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed the claims. Speaking to reporters in Washington, Clinton 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 press 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. And those obligations are very clear.”

Netanyahu defied US demands to honor the complete settlement freeze, saying Israel would keep building in existing settlements on territory Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. (Haaretz, June 6)

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine and the West Bank.

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