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August 5, 2009: That Settlement Freeze

August 30, 2009

For some weeks now we’ve been hearing that the Israeli and US governments are working on some compromise or accommodation on the issue of a freeze in building in the settlements.

Now we’re being told that the emphasis has shifted, and our government is asking how we’ll get out of it, should we agree to a “temporary freeze,” when the allocated time is up. Our government representatives are apparently saying, “We cannot stay frozen forever, you realize.”

Forgive me, but this strikes me as incredibly stupid. We’re being told that the reason the freeze is necessary is to bring the PA to the table and get negotiations started. So, we freeze, and they come to the table. Does anyone expect they’ll stay at the table if we start building again? A temporary freeze is nonsense, and risky, and a surrender of our rights in principle. There ought be no freeze.


I want to back up for just a moment here, and refer to something that took place when I wasn’t posting last week: A rumor made the news, big-time, that Netanyahu has already agreed to a freeze. It was neither confirmed nor fully denied by our government or by the US. Should it turn out to be true — as many insist is the case — it would be a disaster, and infuriating.

There was, at the time, speculation that this rumor might have been floated as a trial balloon, to see how the Israeli public responded (not well).

And I had my own, purely speculative, thought: At first Obama had put all the pressure on us with regard to the freeze. (Remember Cairo?) Then, in the last couple of weeks, his administration started speaking more about the need for reciprocal gestures from the Arabs — which gestures are not forthcoming (see below). Could it be, I began to wonder, that Netanyahu gave the OK privately to Obama on this, but said that he couldn’t present it to the nation without showing some reciprocity from the Arabs? Could it be that this is why the US gov’t shifted a bit? All together not beyond the realm of the possible.


And let me throw something else disconcerting into the hopper here: There is currently building going on inside the settlements, but all of it is as the result of tenders issued before Netanyahu became prime minister. Since then, no new tenders have been issued. This means, de facto, a freeze is coming down the road, when the current building is completed.

Add to this the fact that a week ago Channel 10 television reported that Netanyahu had ordered that a project for the construction of some 900 apartments in Pisgat Ze’ev, a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, be frozen — just one day after Mitchell was here.

When we deal with rumors that say Netanyahu has agreed to a freeze, is this the evidence staring us in the face?


I have no final answers here, but can simply share facts and speculations. I was discussing with a colleague (who will recognize himself here) today the enormous currents that run under the surface in politics, particularly in this part of the world. Blink your eyes and the situation may shift.


Particularly is this the case now. For the radical image that Fatah is currently presenting to the world may seriously shift the issue of negotiations and make something like a settlement freeze a non-issue.

Today’s session of the Fatah Conference is reported to have been particularly divisive and filled with tensions. It had been expected that the meetings would conclude in three days, but the divisiveness is such that it has been decided that more time will be required — with the time now open-ended, as needed.

Among the key sources of dissension was the revelation that leadership did not intend to present the delegates, with detailed reports on Fatah’s financial, political and administrative status. This is, clearly, an attempt by the old guard to resist changes and retain control, but this gambit was not well received.

Then there is the question of whether there should be elections for the Central Committee with Fatah delegates from Gaza unable to participate. (The number stuck in Gaza is 400 — I had inadvertently written 40 the other day.)


See, “Arab states ‘just say no’ to normalization,” an analysis of Arab positions on the “peace process” by Jonathan Spyer of the Global Research on International Affairs Center.

Spyer says that those Arab states deemed to be closest to the US (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan) are refusing to buy into Obama’s plan to have them make gestures towards Israel now.

“The rejection of this idea derives from two elements. Firstly, the near-universal, though rarely expressed, belief that the current attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is doomed to failure. Secondly, the distinct lack of urgency felt in Arab capitals regarding this issue.
“Regarding the first issue, the factors that caused the failure of the peace process in the 1990s have not disappeared. They are waiting to trip up any negotiation should final-status talks begin.

“The demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be permitted to make their homes in Israel, the demand for exclusive Muslim sovereignty over the holy places in Jerusalem, the refusal to countenance recognition of Israel as a Jewish state – all these remain part of the non-negotiable core position of the Palestinian national movement. Indeed, in so far as the situation on the ground has changed since 2000, it is for the worse.

“The split in the Palestinian national movement between nationalist Fatah and Islamist Hamas increasingly has the look of permanency about it. And since militancy against Israel remains the currency of legitimacy in Palestinian politics, the effect of this is to induce the ageing Fatah movement to dress itself up in radical array once again.

“This may currently be seen at the Fatah congress in Bethlehem. There is simply no prospect in the foreseeable future of a united Palestinian leadership willing to make the compromises with reality which alone would render a repartition of the country feasible.

“For Arab countries aligned with the US, this situation is not so terrible…

“…Arab regimes do not consider it in their interests to appear to be making concessions to Israel. On the contrary…[as] there is no urgent practical need to resolve the conflict, the leaders of these countries have an obvious interest in playing to the gallery of their own publics by striking occasional militant poses.

“…the Obama administration has made abundantly clear that there will be no price to be paid by the Arab states for their refusal to get on the Obama peace wagon.

“…these states may happily continue their comfortable stance of verbal support for the Palestinian cause and refusal to undertake any potentially detrimental gesture of rapprochement toward Israel, while continuing to enjoy the benefits of American patronage.

“The fact is that, as everyone in the region knows, there is no chance of a final-status accord between Israelis and Palestinians any time soon. And the absence of such an accord is very far from being the most urgent problem facing the region. All sides now await the moment that this knowledge finds its way to the US administration.”



I have long felt that Ehud Barak was an embarrassment, not to mention a danger to our nation. And here he goes again:

In a statement to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, Barak is reported to have said, with regard to Obama’s forthcoming plan for peace in the region, that: “I believe that Israel must take the lead in accepting the plan.”

What is this — a desire to show Obama that we’re the good guys and not “obstructionist”? I know that Barak is pro-negotiations, pro “two state solution.” But wouldn’t you think that even he would want to know what the plan entails before enthusiastically endorsing it?

As it happens, Barak, who is not well liked even inside his party, is leader of a divided Labor party right now. Talk of divisiveness: There are issues regarding his control, and when primaries will again take place, that are sources of deep dissension.




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