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March 05, 2014

Where's the Coverage? "Settlements" Not an Obstacle to Peace

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In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, widely perceived as blaming Israel for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Obama never addressed the issue of incitement by Palestinian Authority leaders, media and educational materials to hatred of and violence against Jews and Israelis. He never mentioned the PA policy to celebrate terrorists as heroes and to glorify killers by naming public squares and soccer tournaments after them.

President Obama did, however, refer a number of times to Israeli “settlements.” He agreed that “settlements are illegitimate” and even threatened:

But what I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction -- and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time -- if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.

However, as Evelyn Gordon points out in Commentary, “on this issue, Obama’s ‘facts’ are flat-out wrong.” The article continues:

In reality, as a simple glance at the annual data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reveals, there has been less settlement construction during Benjamin Netanyahu’s five years as Israeli premier (2009-13) than under any of his recent predecessors.

During those five years, housing starts in the settlements averaged 1,443 a year (all data is from the charts here, here and here plus this news report). That’s less than the 1,702 a year they averaged under Ehud Olmert in 2006-08, who is nevertheless internationally acclaimed as a peacemaker (having made the Palestinians an offer so generous that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice couldn’t believe she was hearing it). It’s also less than the 1,652 per year they averaged under Ariel Sharon in 2001-05, who is similarly lauded internationally as a peacemaker (for having left Gaza); the fact that even Sharon out-built Netanyahu is particularly remarkable, because his term coincided with the second intifada, when demand for housing in the settlements plummeted. And it’s far less than under Ehud Barak, who is also internationally acclaimed as a peacemaker (for his generous offer at Camp David in 2000): One single year under Barak, 2000, produced more housing starts in the settlements (4,683) than the entire first four years of Netanyahu’s term (4,679).

Whether settlement construction is “aggressive” or not, it is certainly not an obstacle to peace.

Imagine a deal is negotiated and a border is established somewhere. Put it anywhere. Put it on the 1949 armistice line. Put it right through the middle of Ma’ale Adumim, if you want. Then some new Israeli towns will be on the Israeli side of the border and some will be on the Palestinian side. So what? What is the problem with that?

“Settlements” are only an obstacle if you accept that no Jews can live in a Palestinian state; that Palestine must be, as the Nazis wanted Europe to be, Judenrein (Jew-free). Twenty percent of Israelis are not Jewish – most of them Arabs – yet zero percent of Palestinians can be Jewish? That would be crazy. But none other than the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas himself, among other Palestinian officials, have said just that. Abbas declared, “I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces [that might secure a peace agreement], or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land.”

That kind of hatred and bigotry…? THAT is an obstacle to peace. Yet… Where’s the coverage?

Posted by SC at March 5, 2014 06:21 PM

Comments

Seems to me the concept of settlements becoming part of a Palestinian state should not be seen as an obstacle to peace, but as part of an optimal solution:

Two democratic states, side by side, each with a minority population from the other. Surely this is the most stable possible arrangement?

Posted by: Matt at March 6, 2014 09:49 AM

So now Obama sees the settlements as "aggressive".
Interesting, as the land was won by Israel in a DEFENSIVE war. That's WAR. I wonder if he saw that war as aggressive on the part of the Palestinians.

Posted by: Amar at March 6, 2014 06:53 PM

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