Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Settlers Limit U.S. Access in West Bank

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Settlers Limit U.S. Access in West Bank

Article excerpt

Jewish settlers in the West Bank barred U.S. diplomats on Sunday from entering their settlements without advance notice and issued instructions to detain their Arab escorts.

"Under no circumstances are these spies to be allowed to pass the gates of our settlements," said an announcement distributed by the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Settlers' Council.

Settlers said two U.S. officials and two Palestinian escorts in a U.S. Consulate car tried Friday to enter the West Bank settlements of Shilo, Ofra and Talmon to check expansion projects.

"We have nothing to hide," said Yehudit Tayar, a spokeswoman for the settlers. "But they are coming along very surreptitiously, sneaking in, snooping around, and we have to be firm against this."

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem had no comment.

A State Department spokeswoman, Christine Shelly, said last week that settlements posed a problem for the peace process. U.S. officials have long monitored construction in the occupied territories.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said neither the Jewish settlers nor the U.S. Consulate had complained. The ministry said it was unaware of diplomatic efforts to visit settlements.

The settlers said they had agreed to accept U.S. officials if prior arrangements were made. They object to unannounced visits and the use of Palestinian escorts.

"They are east Jerusalem Arabs, and they had no good intention when they desired to enter these settlements," Tayar said.

The instructions call for registering diplomats' license plates and names, "real and aliases," and "making an attempt to detain the terrorists accompanying them."

The instructions added: "No violence should be taken against verified diplomats."

Attempts to expand the settlements have increased tension between Palestinians and Israelis. The PLO says such expansion could harm peace talks.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government has vowed that no new settlements will be built in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the ban does not apply to Jerusalem, and the government said it would not prohibit "thickening" existing settlements by adding houses or other facilities. …

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