The Obama administration is considering a series of symbolic measures to force Israel to halt all construction in West Bank settlements, the New York Times has reported.
Administration officials said that measures under discussion include dropping the U.S.’s near-uniform support of Israel in the United Nations, according to Times.
“There are things that could get the attention of the Israeli public,” The Times quoted a senior administration official as saying. Nevertheless, the official also said, “Israel is a critical United States ally, and no one in this administration expects that not to continue.”
Israeli officials said Monday that the U.S. has made no mention of any such plans. The Obama administration has insisted on a total settlement freeze, but Jerusalem has balked at this demand claiming that existing communities in the West Bank deserve continued government attention.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday declared that Israel would not put life in West Bank settlements on hold, despite the United States demand that Israel completely halt construction in existing settlements.
“There are reasonable demands and demands that are not reasonable,” Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
He was referring to a request made by U.S. President Barack Obama during a recent meeting in Washington with the premier. Netanyahu, however, did pledge that Israel would not build any new settlements.
The prime minister’s comments came after Israeli security forces evacuated the northern West Bank outpost of Nachalat Yosef on Monday.
The site, near the settlement of Elon Moreh, contained three caravans and had been described by its residents as a farm, Army Radio reported.
Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said structures that were destroyed would be rebuilt.
“The nation of Israel elected a government that is supposed to care for the settlements and not destroy them, using hypocritical legalities as an excuse,” Mesika said.
A senior defense official said earlier on Monday that the government does not intend to destroy any of the 26 outposts slated for evacuation. The official added that the evacuation will take place only after discussion with the settlers.
Monday’s evacuation came after renewed calls by the United States for Israel to honor past commitments to remove the outposts. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, said last week that Israel was not bowing to U.S. pressure in evacuating the sites.
One of the caravans was moved into Elon Moreh during the evacuation, which took place without incident, according to Army Radio.
Last week, the Civil Administration yesterday released the full list of West Bank outposts where occupants of some buildings will be told they will be considered illegal residents if they do not leave the site within three days of the order.
This story "Report: White House May Condition Its Support for Israel at U.N. on Settlement Freeze" was written by Yuval Azoulay and Nadav Shraga (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service.