Following a Tuesday meeting with U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, SharonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top advisor Dov Weissglas said Tuesday that the American-Israeli differences over the grand expansion the largest West bank settlement would not overshadow a planned summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. President George W. Bush in the United States next week.
American sources said that Weissglas and Rice dealt with the plan to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, but did not reach agreement on the matter.
Even as the U.S. Administration IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s demand to keep hold of major settlement blocs in a final status solution, the U.S. believes that meanwhile Israel must uphold a total freeze on construction in the Palestinian territories. Israel considers the American recognition of IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right in settlement blocs a license to expand them.
Sharon is slated to meet Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch on Monday.
U.S. demands immediate answers on settlement expansion
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will bring up Israel’s plan to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim at her meeting Monday night with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s advisor, Dov Weissglas, the US State Department said Monday.
A State Department spokeswoman, speaking a few hours before the meeting, said the plan to expand the West Bank settlement would definitely be on the agenda.
Her comment came hours after Sharon told a Knesset panel that Israel should press forward with the plan despite American and Palestinian objections.
U.S. displeased over planned settlement expansion
The U.S. State Department on Monday expressed displeasure with Israel’s decision to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim with the aim of connecting it to Jerusalem.
Department officials said the matter would be raised in talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s advisor Dov Weisglass and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
A spokeswoman from the State Department’s Middle East department said that the U.S. will ask Israel to explain the decision on expanding Ma’aleh Adumim.
Earlier on Monday, Sharon said Israel should press forward with the expansion of Ma’aleh Adumim despite U.S. and Palestinian objections.
Israel intends to build 3,500 housing units in the five-kilometer corridor between the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim and the eastern part of Jerusalem.
Ten days ago, US National Security Council official Elliott Abrams and David Welch, assistant secretary of state for the Near East, asked Sharon pointed questions about the plan during a meeting in Jerusalem.
A participant said Sharon made it clear he wanted to move forward with building in the E-1 corridor, the designation for the land between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.
‘There is a need to carry out construction in E-1. This program has been in existence for 10 years. We should definitely move ahead with it.’ A participant at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee quoted Sharon as saying.
Palestinians object to any Israeli construction in the West Bank, but in particular warned that the expansion of Ma’aleh Adumim could kill chances for peace.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Sharon’s remarks.
‘If carried out, this E-1 project will destroy the peace process and will undermine prospects for any future negotiations on the final status agreements,’ Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said, calling upon the U.S. to stop this project.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said the U.S. continued to hold Israel to its commitments under the ‘road map,’
The road map requires Israel to halt all construction in settlements, while demanding that the Palestinians dismantle violent groups responsible for attacks against Israelis.