Yaalon: Settlement slowdown temporary since Obama only has two years left

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said his difficulties in advancing plans for settlement construction are temporary, since the Obama administration only has two more years left in power.

“I want to advance plans [for settlement construction] and to build more,” he told students at the Makor Haim Yeshiva located in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank.

Tuesday’s meeting was not open to the media, but Yaalon’s talk was recorded, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Yaalon said that since the settlements cause a negative reaction from the U.S., “we are very, very careful not to pull on this rope too much.”

Yaalon told the students that things would change. “At present there is a certain administration in Washington, and it is the U.S. that is setting the tone. But this administration won’t be [in power] forever, and I hope it’s temporary,” he said.

In response to Yaalon’s statements, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that the United States will continue to oppose Israeli settlements and settlement construction after Obama leaves office.

“This administration’s opposition to settlements is fully consistent with the policies of administrations for decades, including of both parties. So the notion that that would change is not borne out by history,” Psaki said.

Yaalon has a track record of making negative comments about the U.S. and its officials. In January he called Kerry’s pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace  “messianic and obsessive.”