U.S, Israel Address Settlements Dispute

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U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell met Tuesday with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the ongoing dispute over West Bank settlements, but there was no sign of a breakthrough at the meeting.
Washington and Jerusalem are trying to narrow their differences over the tough issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The U.S. is demanding Israel put a freeze on building in the settlements, but Israel insists there should be "natural growth" in the Jewish communities.           
The leaders said they have made progress, but some are calling this the worst relations between the U.S. and Israel in 20 years.

"I think we're making progress toward achieving an understanding that would enable us to continue, and in fact complete, a peace process that would be established between us and our Palestinian neighbors and ultimately the entire region," Netanyahu said after the meeting.

Mitchell stressed that Israel and the U.S. were still "friends and allies."
At a protest in Jerusalem Monday, supporters of the settlements warned Netanyahu not to cave into U.S. Pressure. Protestors set up tents and shacks on hilltops on the West Bank Monday night and rallied in Jerusalem holding signs that condemned the U.S administration.

Israeli Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said the progression of Jerusalem is important.

"We call upon our government to remember that the Israeli electorate, the Israeli voter, decided very clearly that the renewal of the development of the communities in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem is a vital interest for the state of Israel," he said.

The West Bank is now home to 2.5 million Palestinians. However, the number of Israeli settlers there has more than doubled since the mid-1990s and is now near 300,000.

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