Ya'alon: We'll go on building in settlements

Strategic affairs minister: No new outposts will be built but natural expansion will be allowed.

"We will not follow American dictates. We will not halt construction in the settlements," Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Channel 2's Meet the Press on Saturday. Ya'alon was referring to the American demand that Israel halt all settlement activity, voiced by US President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting last week. "Settlements are not the reason that the diplomatic process failed," Ya'alon said. "The settlements were not an obstacle to peace at any point [in the talks]. Even when Israel evacuated swathes of land, terrorism continued. Even when we uprooted communities, all we got in return was 'Hamastan'. This is why I suggest we think it over - but not with slogans or dictates." The former IDF chief of staff emphasized that the government will not allow the establishment of new outposts, but clarified: "We will not halt the expansion of settlements which is a result of natural growth. There are people living here, raising their children here. We need to build homes for families' residence - it's not this which has prevented peace." "What the US demands," he said, is "not a dictate. We'll see how they translate the statements into policy. Their envoy [to the Middle East, George] Mitchell will come, and we will talk to him. I suggest that neither the US, nor us, decide on a timetable in advance." "From the banks of the Potomac, you don't always fully understand the situation, and here Israel's job is to help its ally," Ya'alon said, also criticizing dissent from within: "The dialogue in Israel presents us as peace objectors - the problem is within us."