Obama Reiterates Stance On Israeli Settlements
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. A few words by President Obama have provoked a strong reaction in the Middle East, specifically in Israel. The president is traveling to the Middle East this week. And in an interview with NPR News before he left he suggested that he may have to press Israel harder to change its policies.
BARACK OBAMA: Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative. Not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests.
INSKEEP: Hi, Lourdes.
LOURDES GARCIA: Hi.
INSKEEP: What does each side say about these settlements right now?
GARCIA: The Israelis term it natural growth, meaning that they believe because residents of settlements have children, those children should be allowed to live near their parents if they so choose and therefore build new housing. The U.S., of course, wants all settlement activity to stop completely.
INSKEEP: And then the president put out these comments suggesting not too specifically that there could be consequences if Israel continues on this course. What's the reaction?
GARCIA: So a lot of consternation here about the American administration's intentions. Israel is used to have the unstinting support of the United States. And when relations become strained, as they appear to be right now, the people get very, very nervous here.
INSKEEP: It's interesting that you mention the unstinting support, because the president's remarks seemed rather measured and he didn't warn of any specific consequences or a timeline. But you're saying that even so, this is a great surprise to Israel to have any kind of warning that they may be forced to change their behavior.
GARCIA: If, on the other hand, he faces a confrontation with the United States, then he faces another set of difficulties here, which is that people in this country get very nervous when the United States and the prime minister of this country are facing off against each other.
INSKEEP: Lourdes, do you actually see settlements growing, construction going on, even as this debate continues?
GARCIA: So I think it's going to be a lot - there's going to be a lot of tension here in the coming weeks and certainly in the coming months.
INSKEEP: Lourdes, good to talk with you.
GARCIA: You're welcome.
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