Obama to Palestinians: Drop Call for Settlement Freeze

Urges Israel to Accept That Palestine Needs Real Borders

by Jason Ditz, March 21, 2013

On the second day of his Israel visit, President Obama urged Israel to accept, in theory, the notion that Palestinians have the right to some sort of viable state, and that this state would need real, actual borders.

While that’s a tall order for the current Israeli government, which includes parties that reject the notion of Palestinian statehood and peace deals on general principle, the bigger stumbling block will surely be Obama’s call for Palestinians to drop their demands that Israel stop expanding settlements.

Obama’s comment rests on the assumption that peace talks simply need to get started, and that this means the Palestinians need to ditch pre-conditions to get things underway.

Yet this isn’t an arbitrary demand unrelated to the talks. With Palestinians attempting to negotiate for a fraction of their occupied land on which to build an independent state, the negotiations will struggle mightily if the available land keeps shrinking because of new settlement construction.

Even the “temporary partial freeze” of construction during the last of the peace talks didn’t really help much, because it encouraged pro-settler parties in Israel to just stall progress until the freeze ran out, and then insist that the failure to make a deal with sheer Palestinian unreasonableness.

President Obama conceded that settlements are “unhelpful” to the peace process, but doesn’t seem to grasp what an enormous obstacle they really are, and more importantly that a government determined to continue expanding them has no real reason to reach a peace deal.

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