JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s prime minister said that no new settlements would be built in the West Bank, but that existing settlements will be able to accommodate ‘natural growth.’
Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the government’s commitment to dismantle illegal outposts during Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
"We are obliged to protect the law," he told his Cabinet. "We won’t establish new settlements, but there is no logic in not providing an answer to natural expansion."
Ahead of the meeting, government ministers made their differences on the settlement issue known. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the 22 identified illegal outposts would be dismantled and their residents forcibly removed.
"(T)his isn’t the issue between us and the Americans, and us and the Palestinians, rather first and foremost between us and ourselves," Barak said. "This is an issue of the rule of law in the state, and the authority of the law over its citizens. We have evacuated three outposts, come to an understanding with another, and have not allowed any addition outposts to be constructed .The 22 additional outposts must be taken care of now, and in a responsible and correct way."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the outposts should not be removed until there is a comprehensive program under which to do so.
He also told reporters before the Cabinet meeting that leaving the territory Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War would not bring peace.
"A return to the borders of ’67 today, as we are being pressured to do, would not end the conflict, would not guarantee peace or security," Lieberman said. "It would simply move the conflict to within the ’67 borders."