Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Israel to Halt Settlement Construction for 10 Months

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced there will be a 10 month halt to the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

If I've said it once I'll say it a thousand times. It's not about the settlements.

The settlements are a red herring. Dismantling them in Gaza invited increased rocket attacks and the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit which resulted in a month long war scarcely a year after the settlements had been abandoned.

Yet President Obama has been pressuring Israel on the settlements and the Palestinian Authority has been emboldened to demand a halt of the settlements as a precondition for returning to the negotiating table. It was scarcely a week ago that President Obama characterized the settlements as "dangerous" in an interview with the Fox News Channel.

Will this get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table? Probably not. The Palestinians want nothing short of a complete freeze on settlement construction. Israel is giving an inch and the Palestinians want to take the mile. It is my fear that President Obama will walk the mile in the the Palestinians' shoes and demand Israel freeze all settlements. While it is worth noting that both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell praised Netanyahu's decision one cannot rule out the possibility of President Obama singing a different tune if the Palestinians dig in their heels.

The only thing Netanyahu gains by this that he appears reasonable and amenable to compromise. But that can only work if the Palestinians and President Obama are willing to do the same. Being reasonable and amenable to compromise are not strong suits of either the Palestinian Authority or the White House.

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