In his latest waver back and forth on the issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, US President Barack Obama issued a warning Friday night to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that he wants the Israeli leader to show that he is “serious about peace” by halting settlement construction.Since he took office in January 2009, Barack Obama has given Israel mixed messages on the issue of settlement expansion – first pushing the issue, then allowing Israel to move forward with planned construction, then pushing again for a freeze, then backing down on that push.

His current stance appears to be a response to recent reports that the Israeli Prime Minister personally approved the construction of thousands of new housing units on stolen Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Joe Biden both mentioned the new construction as a problem, but did not threaten to cut back even a small amount of the $30 billion promised to Israel by the US over the next ten years.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, much of which goes to fund and equip the Israeli military. No US President since George Bush Sr. has tried to make US aid to Israel contingent on Israel’s adherence to international law.

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.