The Jordan Times (Opinion)
October 18, 2007 - 5:44pm

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is right to say that, “frankly, it’s time for a Palestinian state”. She’s also right to go visit the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. She’s going to need all the help she can get.

But as we are being frank, let’s continue. Frankly, it’s about time that Israel was slapped well and truly down. It is almost beyond belief that the US - and let’s not kid ourselves, Washington and Washington alone can make the difference here - allows Israel to continue its settlement expansions in the occupied West Bank as well as in occupied East Jerusalem.

This is clearly prejudicing any final status talks and is, therefore, in violation of the letter and spirit of not only the Oslo accords, but every single attempt at bringing Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table, including the last one, the Quartet’s roadmap.

Indeed, the illegal and immoral settlement activity was the single most outstanding reason for the outbreak of the Aqsa Intifada, whatever Israel and its supporters may claim.

There really is no reason for Washington to hold back on this issue. After all, it is US policy that all settlement activity should be frozen pending final settlement, and it is only US choice that allows Israel to continue.

Washington needs to be firm with Israel and can be so in a myriad of ways. Defer loan guarantees or delay military aid until Israel complies with the will of the world’s remaining superpower.

There are several other issues that Israel should address, and immediately, but will only do so with US pressure. Ending restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods within and throughout the occupied territories, releasing prisoners and ending the Israeli aggression in occupied Palestinian territories - all need to happen now.

Then and only then will anybody set any store by the Israeli announcements regarding restarting a peace process.

But Israel needs Washington to force its hand. If the Bush administration really wants progress in its last months in power, the road is clear. Pressure Israel and see the whole region applaud. Pressure Israel and see real progress towards peace.

Israel is, was and will continue to be the major impediment to peace with the Palestinians unless Washington steps in. It’s time Washington did.



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