I encourage you to visit bitterlemons.org – a site for Israeli-Palestinian crossfire. In this edition, two Palestinians and two Israelis discuss their take on settlements as an obstacle to negotiations.
bitterlemons.org is a website posting Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints on current issues. Each week a different, controverisal question is addressed. The authors include prominet Palestinians and Israelis selected by the page’s editors.
One of this week’s Israeli authors, Dore Gold, former ambassador to the UN, writes: “the settlement question is clearly an overstated issue in the peace process.” The US’ concern is the extent to which settlement building may diminish Palestinian territory in a future agreement — the settlements comprise 1.7% of West Bank territory and the marginal increase in this land due to ‘natural growth’ will be ‘infintesimal’, he claims. On the surface, Gold raises a compelling point. What is the marginal cost of an Israeli cottage in the West Bank? In terms of land: zero. So why are the Americans so insistant on this subject? Because the Palestinian Authority refuses to negotiate otherwise. Expansion of settlements has played an important role in the diminishing support for the Palestinian leadership from its own people. Thus, contributing to Palestinian Authority’s perception as a ‘weak’ negotiating partner. These costs are equally as important as those measured in dunams. Gold also ignores the fact that we are not looking at the construction of one villa here and there but rather at the expansion of outposts that inhibit the future of a contigous state.
The Americans have gotten themselves into a viscious cycle. No Palestinian participation without a settlement freeze and no settlement freeze because of its immense political costs to Netanyahu’s administration. The cycle must be broken but not by ignoring the importance of the settlement question.