Despite the Netanyahu government’s hopes to keep the deadline relatively quiet, the expiration of the settlement construction freeze gave way to major celebrations by settlers across the occupied West Bank, who pledged major increases in construction going forward.
Though data suggested that the freeze itself actually did very little to slow construction in the settlements, a number of top settler leaders and officials in the government lauded the end as vindication for religious claims to the occupied territories as well as a victory over President Obama, who had urged the continuation of the freeze.
But with the freeze now over, the real question is where this leaves the ongoing peace talks. Israeli officials are pressing the Palestinian Authority to continue with the talks, but even if they are willing to do so the momentum does not seem to be on their side.
Nor indeed on the Netanyahu government’s side, as ending the freeze has been incredibly popular for a number of his coalition’s far right members, but those members are also the ones who have objected most strongly to the peace talks on general principle.
Likud MP Danny Danon, for instance, had just gotten done chiding President Obama for his calls to move forward with the peace process in his UN speech and is now urging the settlers to expand as much as possible to “continue the Zionist vision.” The ability of Likud members to reconcile that vision with peace talks continues to remain in doubt, but when the two run afoul of one another, it seems the expansion of settlements, inevitably, comes first.