The latest twist in US-Israeli relations is that the Israeli government is claiming that it’s unfair of Barack Obama to attempt to enforce America’s longstanding nominal policy position against Israeli settlement expansion because the Bush administration reached a secret agreement “that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement ‘freeze.’”
Now it would certainly be interesting to know if any such secret agreement was ever formally put down. It was widely understood that the Bush administration had a policy of winking at Israeli violations of Bush’s stated position on this issue, but a formal “we didn’t really mean it” clause would be good to know about.
Still, it’s not clear why Barack Obama would consider this, rather than longstanding official American policy, publicly released documents (i.e., the “road map”), international law, and basic common sense to be controlling. Nor is it clear what standing the Netanyahu administration even has to point to these kind of agreements, given that Netanyahu has repeatedly made it clear that he has no intention of following earlier Israeli commitments to work toward a two-state solution. Bottom line is that settlement expansion makes peace impossible and should be halted. A settlement freeze hardly ensures peace, but its absence precludes it.