The seizure of the Free Gaza ship came as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington for talks with US envoy George Mitchell. Despite weeks of pressure from the Obama administration, Barak maintained Israels refusal to commit to freezing the expansion of West Bank settlements. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: Its a little bit too early to predict. We are considering every positive contribution that Israel can make towards the taking off of a significant, important peace effort. And, of course, were always taking into account our security interests and demands, as well as the need to see always the whole picture, the wider picture, and to deal with each and every issue, including the settlements, within this wider framework.
The US has called for the settlement freeze but so far refused to threaten the cutoff of billions of dollars in US aid. Israel has continued to expand settlements despite agreeing to halt construction under the six-year-old Road Map.
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