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'Israel Won't Yield to US Demands, Won't Halt Settlement Construction'
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke to Channel 2 on Saturday about the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, held earlier this week, saying that Israel's government will not allow the U.S. to dictate its policy, and that "settlement construction will not be halted."
"Settlements are not the reason that the peace process is failing, they were never an obstacle, not at any stage," Ya'alon told Channel 2 News. "Even when Israel pulled out of [Palestinian] territory, the terror continued. Even when we uprooted [Jewish] communities, we got 'Hamastan.' That is why I propose that we think about it - not in slogans and not with decrees."
According to Ayalon, "we will not halt the construction in the settlements within the framework of natural growth. There are people here who are living their lives, raising children. Housing is required ? it wasn't housing that has prevented peace."
In reference to the illegal West Bank outposts, which Israel has vowed to evacuate and has begun to do so, Ya'alon stressed that "the government will not permit illegal settlement, as we've proven with our actions this week."
Some believe that the evacuation of the outpost of Maoz Esther on Thursday morning, which came a day after Defense Ministry sources told Haaretz that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had agreed on a plan to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank, was carried out in accordance with U.S. pressure. However, Barak denied any correlation between the Netanyahu-Obama meeting on Monday, and the evacuation.
Ya'alon also addressed reports that the U.S. had upped its demands and was trying to dictate Israel's next moves in the negotiations with the Palestinians. "What the U.S. is asking is not a demand, we'll see whether their declaration become actual demands," he said.
"[U.S. envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell will come, and we'll talk to him. I suggest that Israel and the U.S. don't set a timetable. We won't let them threaten us," Ya'alon added.
"From the banks of the Potomac in Washington it is not always clear what the real situation here is," Ya'alon concluded. "This is where Israel must step in and help her ally understand the situation."
Ya'alon also criticized Israel, saying that "the Israeli discourse paints us as hostile, the problem is within us."