During last week’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama made little progress but the demand that Israel stop expanding its settlements set up a serious battle between the administration and the right wing Israeli government.
Still, Netanyahu says he will continue to allow construction in those settlements, despite growing international opposition. The prime minister said it was “not fair not to provide a solution to natural growth.”
But the Netanyahu government can’t really afford a major confrontation with its largest ally, and so it has offered what is being presented as a “compromise” solution. The government will agree to dismantle nearly two dozen illegal outposts so long as the United States promises to stop calling for a halt to settlement growth.
At the same time, the Israeli government has already been dismantling the illegal outposts, so the concession doesn’t seem to offer anything meaningful. If the US agrees, it will essentially be a victory for the Netanyahu government in its first major spat with the Obama Administration: they will be able to stay the course and get a pledge from the US not to criticize the behavior that caused the debate in the first place. The issue of Palestinian statehood, at the root of the US criticism of the settlement expansions, would remain unanswered.