The Jordan Times (Editorial)
January 11, 2010 - 1:00am

The Palestinians are right to refuse a return to negotiations with Israel unless there is a total halt to settlement construction in the occupied territories.

To continue negotiations as Israel continues devouring Palestinian lands to build and expand settlements means having less and less land to negotiate over.

It is highly disingenuous for the US to suggest otherwise, as Hillary Clinton did Friday in Washington. After all, it was Washington that quite logically and properly demanded that Israel cease its construction in the occupied territories last year. Just because the US administration has since come up against the power of the pro-Israel lobby does not mean that that position was wrong. It certainly does not mean that the Palestinians should abandon that position.

Palestinians were advised to focus on negotiating over borders even as Israel continues to build settlements, and once negotiations are over, any area that falls within the agreed upon border, including the settlements, can be taken by the Palestinians as part of their future state. But Clinton on Friday said the two parties have to agree to land swaps, meaning settlements on Palestinian lands would most probably become part of Israel, thus justifying Palestinian fears that settlements are eating up whatever is left of the lands they are negotiating over to set up their future state, which would certainly be a small part of the historical land of Palestine.

Settlements make this part of Palestine look smaller and smaller, and the Palestinian pursuit of a state on their national soil a distant reality.

Washington’s just stated position means that Israel’s continued imposition of facts on the ground through settlement building and the erection of the segregation wall in the West Bank will win it the lands it wants.

If Israel is allowed to continue building, it will continue building. That in and of itself changes the parameters for negotiations, and is unacceptable. Ergo, Israeli settlement construction while negotiations are under way is unacceptable. It brokers no argument. It is an understandable and consistent position in line with international law and people’s expectations.

What makes sense now is to have Washington take the advice of its special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, who suggested, in an interview with PBS last week, imposing sanctions on Israel to press it to make concessions in the peace negotiations.

Naturally, this suggestion drew Israeli fire. It also made Israel attempt to put the onus on the Palestinians to change their positions, blaming them for the impasse.

The US should not bend to pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or the lobbyists and should, instead, insist on a complete halt to settlement activity and an immediate return to the negotiation table.

This is a position that makes sense and that must not be deviated from.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017