Sunday, October 03, 2010

Scheming Over Settlements

If this report is true, one can only wonder if Binyamin Netanyahu is sane.
The details of the letter were revealed by researcher David Makovsky on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

According to the report, the letter included incentives crucial to Israel's security that Netanyahu has been demanding for years. For example, the United States pledged to support Israel's position on stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state, in order to prevent weapons smuggling.

The United States also would not ask Israel to further extend the building moratorium and would pledge that the issue of settlements would be dealt with only as part of final-status talks with the Palestinians, the letter reportedly said.

The United States also reportedly would veto any UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, would upgrade Israel's defense capabilities after the peace agreement, and would increase security assistance.

This reportedly would include providing Israel with advanced fighter jets and early warning systems, including satellites. The U.S. also would start talks with Arab countries toward a regional agreement vis-a-vis Iran.

Obama adviser Dennis Ross, who is the moving force behind the letter, is believed to have encouraged Obama to change his policy toward Netanyahu in order to come off as friendlier. Ross reportedly worked with Barak and Molho on the letter during the UN General Assembly in New York.

The White House denied that Obama sent a letter to Netanyahu, but did not deny that the United States and Israel had worked on a letter.
It's like a five-year-old being told that he can have everything on his extensive Christmas wish list, then having him stomp his feet and demand that Christmas be moved up by two months.

Another Ha'aretz article shows the behind-the-scenes thinking that led to the initial settlement freeze. According to Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin,
"We made an attempt to show goodwill, build relations, but I warned Netanyahu after the decision was made that it would end badly. He sat in my office and I said to him: Bibi, no one in the world, no one, will accept us stopping construction to draw the Palestinians into negotiations, and then starting again during negotiations. It is completely illogical. Who would accept this? I also said this to [army Chief of Staff Gabi] Ashkenazi, and to minister [without portfolio] Benny Begin, who supported the decision."

What did Begin say?

"His logic was that the moratorium decision was useful because it did not differentiate between settlement blocs and isolated settlements, as Olmert's government did, and when building was renewed, it would be renewed everywhere."

What did Netanyahu say?

"He said to me: Don't repeat this outside so you won't give people ideas."
That is, it appears that Netanyaho chose to offer a freeze that applied to all settlements, knowing that during its ten months the freeze would amount to nothing, and anticipating that at the end of that time he could accelerate construction in all Israeli settlements. Had he negotiated a more limited freeze he would likely have been pressured to give up the blanket concession that allowed continued construction of existing building projects and would have a much weaker argument against extension.
At the end of 2009, the number of housing units that were actively being built on all the settlements together amounted to 2,955. Three months later, at the end of March 2010, the number stood at 2,517. We are therefore talking about a drop of a little more than 400 housing units - some 16 percent of Israeli construction in the West Bank over that period....

For their part, the Palestinians did not really ask for a total freeze on construction. They demanded, and justifiably so, to once and for all get recognition of the principle that negotiations on the future of the settlements not take place while they are continuing to be built up. Accordingly, the Palestinians agreed to turn a blind eye to the construction so long as the official freeze policy of the Israeli government continued.
That ongoing construction is consistent with the history of settlement freezes. The most remarkable example of the expansion of settlements in the face of peace talks came during the post-Oslo period, a period of relative calm and protracted negotiations during which Israel doubled its population of West Bank settlers.
In 1991, when the first Bush administration was coaxing Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, 90,300 Israelis lived in settlements across the West Bank. Today there are 300,000 — and their population is growing by 5 percent a year, more than 2 1/2 times the growth rate inside Israel.
A settler puts it like this:
"The Americans said, 'you're torpedoing our efforts,'" said Goldis, 73. "We say, 'we're coming to live in Israel, why can't we live wherever we want?'"
To which a fair response is, "If you're going to annex the West Bank to Israel, grant its occupants and refugees Israeli citizenship and equal rights, and implement the so-called 'one state solution', fine -- it's your country. But if you want a two-state solution, you can't simultaneously insist that the occupied territories are Israeli territory."

Turning back to Netanyahu, he's presently feigning incredulity,
"For 17 years the Palestinians conducted direct talks with Israeli governments while building went on in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said in response to the Palestinian statement, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names. "I hope that now, as well, they will not turn their backs on peace and continue the negotiations in order to reach a framework agreement within a year."
For a possible Palestinian response... what was that saying attributed to Einstein?

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