Part of the Obama administration’s plan to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table has been to call on the Israeli government to freeze all settlement building and expansion throughout the occupied West Bank.
Yet despite agreeing to freeze all settlement activity in the 2003 Road Map, the Israelis have continued expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, last week, Israeli government ministers approved a measure calling for a 10-month freeze on new building permits and construction of new residential buildings in the West Bank (but exempts East Jerusalem), a move top U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell said “falls short of a full settlement freeze, but it is more than any Israeli government has done before, and can help move toward agreement between the parties.”
[Member of the Knesset] Dani Danon organized the meeting after Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) launched a verbal attack over the matter on U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which she branded “terrible.” [...]
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately distanced himself from her comments, the activists at Saturday’s conference leveled further criticism at Obama over the moratorium, which Israel undertook to carry out in the wake of tremendous U.S. pressure.
“The Obama administration is an enemy of the Jews and the worst regime there ever was for the State of Israel,” said Yossi Naim, the head of the Beit Aryeh regional council, at the Ra’ana meeting. “I announce to Obama: You won’t be able to stop us.”
Ron Nahman, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Ariel, applauded Livnat’s comments. “You had the public courage to say what most of the public feels ever since Obama came to power,” he said, repeatedly referring to the U.S. President as “Hussein Obama.”
The president has no choice but to keep trying. At some point extremists will try to provoke another war…and the absence of a dialogue will only make things worse. Advancing his own final-status plan for a two-state solution is one high-risk way forward that we think is worth the gamble. Stalemate is unsustainable.
The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss notes that Netanyahu’s refusal to comply with a full settlement freeze “is a huge part of the problem here” and that the Obama administration may have to “stop pretending that Netanyahu is a partner for peace.”