Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Settlement Expansion Continues

in East Jerusalem, on land that the Palestinians hope will be theirs once a peace treaty is signed between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

I've said this before but it is worth repeating. Expecting the Israelis to withdraw from all of their settlements in the West Bank would be unrealistic. The land which they possess, as well as the people who populate it, give them a valuable bargaining chip they can use to cash in on any future peace deal with the Palestinians. They can use what they currently own to exact important concessions from the Palestinians. Moreover, insisting upon their immediate withdrawal would leave the Israelis potentially vulnerable while doing nothing to dissuade its fiercest enemies from exacting further concessions from the Israelis for nothing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his successors could, for example, tie the pace of their settlers' withdrawal to the Palestinians' ability to fulfill their part of the bargain which presumably would include the disarming of dismantlement of Hamas and any other radical militia located within the Palestinian territories, the renunciation of all Palestinian claims to Israel-proper, access to Jewish holy sites within Palestinian territory, and an extradition treaty for crimes perpetrated against Israelis on Israeli soil among other things.

The Obama administration should, however, remind Prime Minister Netanyahu that his country is building on disputed land which the Palestinians hope to acquire as a part of any peace settlement they sign with the Israelis. And it should, with its allies in Europe and the Middle East,publicly dissuade the Israelis from engaging in these needlessly provocative acts which undermine the peace process. Netanyahu's government, it should be noted, does the Jewish settlers no favor by first, raising their hopes by letting them move into new settlements they would might be forced to withdraw from three or four years from now. The administration should urge the Israelis to reconsider and put a break on settlement expansion.

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