Peres won’t try to stop “natural settlement growth;” Will Obama?

Eventually, Obama and his team may well press the Israeli government to make hard decisions on the West Bank settlements, presumably as part of a comprehensive diplomatic plan in which each side will need to sacrifice cherished principles and stop habitual behavior. We got an inkling of Israel’s predictable but disturbing response to a key question in a report from Ron Kampeas of the JTA:

In his speech Tuesday, Biden made clear that the Obama administration expected Israel not to build new settlements. It is also the U.S. expectation that Israel inhibit “natural” settlement growth, or new building within existing settlements.

Peres told reporters afterward that he told Biden that “Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married.”.

Jeffry Mallow, former President of the Labor Zionist Alliance (now Ameinu), doesn’t buy this logic. In an outraged email, he wrote: “This is disingenuous, discriminatory, hypocritical, and dangerous. Palestinians are regularly denied permits to build homes as their families increase in size. More generally, countries have zoning ordinances. Here in the US, one cannot automatically build new houses or extensions to existing houses. Certainly one cannot automatically increase the size of one’s property as one’s family increases, nor pile an indefinite number of family members into an existing structure. To my knowledge, the same is true in Israel proper. Only the settlers get special treatment.”

This is a great point. In my book, former Foreign Israeli Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami notes, “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the possibility of peace without agony was missed long ago. From now on nobody can spare the parties their Calvary.”

The settlers keep getting spared their Calvary, over and over and over again. In many respects, they are treated like spoiled children who are constantly placated by their parents. It’s time for the grownups to take over.


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