Overheated Rhetoric on Israeli Settlements

(Washington Post) Editorial - Two mistaken but widely held notions regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace are that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible. Following the 1993 Oslo accords, Prime Minister Netanyahu's government, like several before it, has limited building almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement. For example, the Jerusalem neighborhoods where new construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in 2008. Overall, the vast majority of the nearly 500,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank live in areas close to Israel's 1967 borders. Data compiled by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace show that more than 80% of them could be included in Israel if the country annexed just 4% of the West Bank. Diplomats were most concerned by Netanyahu's decision to allow planning and zoning - but not yet construction - in a four-mile strip of territory known as E-1 that lies between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement with a population of more than 40,000. Israel wants to prevent Ma'ale Adumim - which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal - from being isolated. This is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, but Netanyahu's zoning approval is hardly the "almost fatal blow" to a two-state solution that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described. The exaggerated rhetoric puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a "freeze" on the construction a condition for beginning peace talks, a demand which has prevented negotiations for most of the past four years. If Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press Abbas to stop using settlements as an excuse for intransigence - and cool their own overheated rhetoric.

2013-01-02 00:00:00

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