Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom assured the Bush administration Tuesday that Israel would not build or enlarge any settlements, but would continue construction in Ã¢â‚¬Å“built up areasÃ¢â‚¬Â to meet Ã¢â‚¬Å“natural growthÃ¢â‚¬Â needs.
ShalomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement came after U.S. President George W. Bush called on Israel to impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts and ‘end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people.’
Concerning Ã¢â‚¬Å“natural growth’ of settlements, Shalom said that ‘no one can blame us’ for adding schools and other buildings as families grow larger.
SettlementsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“natural growthÃ¢â‚¬Â needs have been subject to many controversies.
Palestinians accused Israel with using it as an excuse to expand settlements. Statistics and Arial maps presented by Palestinians shows how many settlements jumped into the next hilltops within the pretext of fulfilling natural growth needs.
Shalom also said Israel would remove some two dozen remaining unauthorized West Bank settlersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ outposts.
‘Our obligations in this matter will be implemented,’ Shalom told Israel Radio after Bush’s speech.
‘We are committed not to build more settlements, not to extend or enlarge them,’ Shalom said after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell in New York.
When asked about natural growth, however, Shalom told reporters the Israeli government was approving construction of new schools, health centers and Ã¢â‚¬Å“other buildingsÃ¢â‚¬Â where necessary.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. protested against issuing tenders to build more than 1000 housing units in West Bank settlements.
A senior Bush administration official discussed the complications of what a ‘freeze’ entails, saying U.S. and Israeli officials have had detailed talks on ‘technical and practical’ issues of such building.
‘When is a freeze not a freeze, when is it a freeze? In the real world it is a very complicated question,’ the official said.