Israel: Bush Secretly Endorsed Settlement Expansion
Meanwhile, the Israeli government is claiming the Bush administration has secretly endorsed its longstanding policy of expanding West Bank settlements it ultimately intends to keep. This week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said President Bush agreed to let Israel expand settlements, even though his so-called peace plan officially calls for a freeze. Ariel Sharon's former chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, also said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secretly reaffirmed White House approval of West Bank settlement expansion in the spring of 2005, right before Israel dismantled its settlements in the Gaza Strip. Israel's so-called withdrawal from Gaza was widely seen as an attempt to solidify its hold over the West Bank. US officials are denying Weisglass's account of a secret agreement. The news comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Washington today to meet Bush administration officials. Abbas has criticized the US for not blocking Israeli settlement activity despite the resumption of peace talks.
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