On Israel, an Exaggerated and Misguided Focus on Settlement Construction

(Washington Post) Editorial - The Obama administration is ending eight years of failed Middle East diplomacy exactly where it began in 2009 - with an exaggerated and misguided focus on Israeli settlement construction. President Obama during the early months of his first term insisted that the Israeli government freeze all construction as a starting point for negotiations on a Palestinian state. The president's demand had the effect of encouraging Palestinian leaders to resist all concessions while seeking to delegitimize Israel internationally; the peace talks went nowhere even when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a temporary construction freeze. Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on Wednesday was a vivid demonstration of the administration's inability to learn from its mistakes or adjust the ideological tenets that Obama brought to office. The administration asserts that the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by 100,000 since 2009 - but by Kerry's account, 80% of that growth was in areas Israel would likely annex in any settlement. In eight years, 20,000 people have been added to communities outside Israel's West Bank fence, the product of a restraint for which Netanyahu received no White House credit. The Jewish population there may have decreased as a percentage of the overall population, even as Obama and Kerry have made it the focal point of U.S. policy. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked away from a generous Israeli statehood offer eight years ago and in 2014 refused to accept the framework for a settlement that Kerry outlined on Wednesday.

2016-12-30 00:00:00

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