White House rebukes Netanyahu

Israel’s announcement that the country will build additional settlements in the West Bank has been met with “regret” by the Obama administration, just a few weeks before a potential meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also called Abu Mazen.

The move by Netanyahu is seen as a way for the Likud Party leader to appease many in his coalition before a potential freeze in building is announced. The White House is not pleased with the move. “Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel's commitment under the Roadmap,” a paper statement from the White House said. “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.”

In an exclusive interview with Fox’s Bret Baier this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres said the country is committed to “no more new settlements” but he hedged on the implementation of the Roadmap, saying the Palestinian leader cannot go back and forth on what is in the documents. “In the road map for example, the second part of it calls for a Palestinian state with provisional borders, then Abu Mazen says I'm not for a provisional borders,” Peres said. “Now he has to make up his mind, we are ready to move in accordance with the road map, but you cannot mix it with things which are in contradiction to the road map.”

While Israel removed all settlements from the Gaza strip in 2005, the West Bank settlements remain largely untouched. Just three weeks ago the Israeli housing minister announced there was no final approval for building in the West Bank since late March, when Netanyahu took office. That statement was met with encouraging words from the White House during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “There has been movement in the right direction,” Obama said August 18 in response to a question about the halt in construction.

However, things have changed since that time, and Netanyahu is under a huge amount of pressure from his party to allow settlements to continue to grow without regulations, especially as the Prime Minister prepares to sit down with his U.S. and Palestinian counterparts, the first time all three will be in the same room together since the Annapolis conference in 2007.

According to reports, the new units will be in addition to 2,500 already under construction, and all will be in the West Bank.