In my latest piece for Zeek magazine, I take on the absurd argument for granting exceptions for “natural growth” in a settlement freeze. I also discuss what it will take for President Obama to take such a freeze and make it something significant in the long term. This is crucial, because there is a serious danger that all a freeze will be is a brief stoppage in construction, causing a lot of tension between the US and Israel, expending a great deal of political capital and
ending up with little gain.
But I want to mention one more point. In today’s New York Times, British historian Tony Judt, who has come under frequent criticism for his support for a single state solution in Israel-Palestine, has an op-ed arguing that Israel will not remove any settlements, ever and a freeze is in fact a defeat for American efforts for peace.
I don’t want to spend much time deconstructing Judt’s argument. He’s made some interesting ones in the past, but this one is pretty weak. The op-ed betrays a lack of understanding of modern Israel (Judt seems stuck in an image of Israel that is nearly 50 years out of date), and of the settlement issue. Judt uses Ma’ale Adumim as emblematic of settlements and why they will not be removed.
And here is the point. Ma’ale Adumim, like Ariel and the Gush Etzion region are the built-up “blocs” that are generally referred to as possibly remaining in Israeli hands in the event of a peace deal. Gush Etzion is both the most likely to remain Israeli and the least problematic geographically. Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim both extend well into the West Bank and it will take some creativity to figure out how to reconcile a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with those settlements becoming part of Israel. (more…)