Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told high school students in a Jewish West Bank settlement on Tuesday that the Obama Administration "won't be around forever" and that once it is gone, Israel will resume construction in the settlements.
Ya'alon, no stranger to controversy with the United States, was responding to students' questions at a religious seminary (yeshiva) in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, about a freeze on construction in the settlements.
"It's temporary," he said in remarks taped by several students and leaked to Israel Army Radio. "There is a certain administration now in the United States, which is leading this policy. This administration will not stay forever."
For now, he said, Israel needs US support in order to confront anti-Israel diplomatic moves at the UN and other fora and has to be careful not to antagonize it.
"But I very much want to approve construction plans and I hope this will happen," he added. He suggested that students take comfort in the growth of the population in the settlements – 20,000 people in the past year, unprecedented in any other part of Israel.
Ya'alon has been highly critical of US policy on the settlements, especially of Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he labeled "Messianic" for his efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
On a visit to Washington in October he was refused meetings with top State Department and White House officials. In recent days Ya'alon has sought assurances from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if he forms the next government after the March 17 elections, Ya'alon would retain his post.
The top US representative in Israel, meanwhile, made clear this week that the Obama Administration was not a foreign policy lame duck despite the Republican victories in Congress and would press forward with attempts to bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Here is a caution, lest anyone jump to conclusions: Divided government, in which one party controls Congress and the other the Executive Branch, does not necessarily mean foreign policy gridlock," Ambassador Dan Shapiro said at a speech he delivered at Bar-Ilan University - the same venue at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged his commitment in 2009 to the two-state solution.
"What is unmistakable about our foreign policy system is that the Constitution provides the President with the largest share of power. Congress plays a critical role, but history shows that, whether faced with domestic political gridlock or not, presidents often surge and engage even more intensively in national security affairs in their final years in office."
Shapiro provided examples of such foreign policy engagement, going back to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
"The main reason we remain committed to achieving a two-state solution is that we see no alternative that would achieve Israelis’ and Palestinians’ legitimate goals, and that would protect our own interests. Simply put, as Secretary Kerry said on Sunday, 'there is no one-state alternative.'”
The Palestinians claim the West Bank as the site of their future state and the international community believes Israeli settlements and there and their continued expansion undermines prospects for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
This report was republished with permission from i24 news