Settlement Freeze Policy Begins to Thaw

According to news reports, Israel and the US have reached an understanding, or at least a backroom handshake, which would grant a limited and all-too-caveated settlement freeze.

Maya Bengal reported in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv earlier this week:

The agreement was secured after Defense Minister Ehud Barak was able to convince the Americans to allow Israel to continue and build those units whose construction had already started. In other words, the Americans gave their consent to letting the construction continue of some 700 buildings, which amount to some 2,500 housing units.

The State Department has denied reports that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Special Envoy George Mitchell have struck a deal, but it seems to me that the settlement freeze policy has already begun to thaw. My colleague Amjad Atallah practically predicted this scenario just over two months ago:

[T]he question is what is the U.S. goal?  If it is to use a settlement freeze to manage the conflict, then Washington could find itself involved in a full time and protracted negotiations over the definition of a freeze.  Indeed, Netanyahu may come here in a few weeks and offer to negotiate over settlement construction and taking down a few outposts as a way of protecting his interest in retaining the West Bank and most of the settlements.  Netanyahu would much prefer such negotiations to confronting a U.S. request to end the occupation and create two states.”

If stalling a long-awaited two-state deal is what Mr. Netanyahu is going for, then aye. The Israeli opposition has called it, “One hundred days, zero achievements.”

Jonathan Guyer

Jonathan Guyer