Saturday, July 10, 2010

For 17 years the Palestinians and Israelis negotiated directly, in the absence of a freeze in settlements. Palestinians never demanded it as a precondition.

The Folly of Demanding a Settlement Freeze as a Requirement for Negotiations

by Charles Krauthammer

We have already had a year delay in talks because of Obama interjecting the settlement issue in the first place.

Remember, for 17 years the Palestinians and Israelis negotiated, ever since Oslo, directly in the absence of a freeze in settlements. Palestinians never demanded it as a precondition.

In comes Obama, and he demands a freeze of settlements. The Israelis say, why should we make preemptive concessions in advance? Palestinians haven't made any. And the Palestinians answer and say, "Well, if the Americans are demanding a settlement freeze, we are going to demand it as well. And in fact, we won't even speak with the Israelis until there is a settlement freeze."

This is absurd. That's why we have had a year of the Palestinians essentially in a boycott of these negotiations.

So, then, Netanyahu works out a fig leaf, a compromise in which he agrees to a ten-month moratorium outside of Jerusalem for a freeze. And then all of a sudden Obama re-imposes a new condition now of a freeze in Jerusalem, which no Israeli government will ever accept.

Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. Everybody understands that in a [final peace] settlement, these neighborhoods of east Jerusalem — the ones that we are speaking about and where the construction is occurring, as well as the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem — are going to be in the Jewish state under any understanding or settlement.

For example, in the Clinton parameters of the negotiations a decade ago [at Camp David], they would be incorporated into Israel.

So, no Israeli is going to accept a preemptive concession that Jews can't live in this area of east Jerusalem. So unless Obama changes position, talks again are at a standstill because of a blunder on the part of this administration.

Everybody wants negotiations. This inadvertently undermines them.

On how Israel was treated by President Obama during the Netanyahu visit:

There's a striking oddity here. This is a president who bows deeply to the king of Saudi Arabia, who's in a photo-op with the dictator of Venezuela, and will not allow the press in when he has a meeting with the prime minister of the only democracy in the Middle East and the strongest American ally in the Middle East.

It is odd, indeed.

Charles Krauthammer

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