I touched on this yesterday, but it was buried in the middle of a long post. Many people are asking questions like this one, from Simply Jews:
Why should the issue of resolving the natural growth problem become central to the whole Middle East peace process, when really crucial questions, such as status of Jerusalem, the “Right of Return”, Iranian nukes etc. are pushed aside?
It’s mysterious because building homes inside existing settlements — especially when these ‘settlements’ are East Jerusalem neighborhoods — will have little or no effect on any final agreements, while at the same time the issue is a hot button internally for PM Netanyahu. Why create problems for nothing?
Here’s what I think: Obama, for whatever reason, has decided that it is critical to establish a Palestinian state as soon as possible. And this particular demand — that Israel stop all construction anywhere outside of the pre-1967 borders, including East Jerusalem — has been articulated by the Palestinian Authority as a pre-condition for negotiations:
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. “We can’t talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution,” he insisted in an interview. “Until then we can’t talk to anyone.” — Washington Post
Obama recently met with Abbas, and apparently agreed to give him what he asked for. Did the Palestinians give anything in return? I don’t know, but past history suggests not.
What can we learn from this?
- Obama will also be expected to push hard on getting poor Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] to utter the “two-state solution” formula. And indeed he’s already started.
- Obama can be expected to take the Palestinian side on many issues, just because it’s easier to pressure Israel.
- Israel should not expect US commitments — like the Bush letter of 2004 and understandings about settlement construction made in 2005 — to be honored. So much for Obama’s ‘truthful’ approach to the Middle East.