Natasha Mozgovaya
May 21, 2009 - 12:00am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a hard line against settlement construction in the territories Wednesday, including a call to freeze building for natural growth. Her statement came in contrast to the general terms U.S. President Barack Obama expressed about the issue to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week.

"We want to see a stop to settlement construction - additions, natural growth, any kind of settlement activity - that is what the president has called for," Clinton said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

President Shimon Peres discussed the use of construction to accommodate natural growth in the settlements when he was in Washington at the beginning of May. "These children are not going to live on the roofs," he said.

The Israeli Embassy here said Israel would stand by its pledge not to establish new settlements but as Israel sees it, this clearly does not include construction of housing to accommodate natural increases.

Clinton also discussed the two-state solution, which Netanyahu had not mentioned in his meeting with Obama. "We also are going to be pushing for a two-state solution, which by its very name implies borders that have to be agreed to and we expect to see two states living side-by-side," Clinton said. Clinton said the Palestinian state was envisioned as a sovereign state, with the responsibilities that come with statehood.

"We are starting this intensive engagement right now. We have consulted broadly already. George Mitchell and I have spoken with many Arab leaders and of course with the Palestinians and the Israelis and we are determined to forge ahead," Clinton told Al-Jazeera.

Clinton said she had stressed the U.S. position to Netanyahu over dinner. The hard work was just beginning, she said, and the U.S. administration was determined to move ahead with what it saw as in the essential interest of the Israelis, the Palestinians, the region and the rest of the world.

Clinton said the the Palestinians' recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing violence and respecting prior agreements are an "incredibly reasonable request."

Despite reports that Obama was to unveil a peace plan in his Cairo speech on June 4, the White House said there is still no final plan on the table and ideas would continue to coalesce during the month in meetings Obama expects to hold with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


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