Israeli critics of the settlement project are also furious. For example, Akiva Eldar writes:
U.S. generals, and even Israeli ones, have confirmed that the Palestinians have fulfilled the precondition set for them. It’s hard to find anyone who will say this about the Israelis. If, God forbid, buses were to start blowing up in Jerusalem again, Netanyahu would not be seen near any Palestinian leader. He wrote in his book that it is forbidden under any circumstances to negotiate with terrorists. But to build during negotiations on land that the entire world claims is not yours – that’s something else.
As could be expected, the Palestinians are also not too happy about this most recent development.
Why do the Palestinians care so much about a settlement freeze? Shouldn’t they just start negotiating with the Israelis and work on this issues in the course of those talks?
A settlement freeze matters because of history: the Palestinians have been betrayed and their national aspirations undermined by this exact ploy in the past. The period of time from the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 until the collapse of peace talks in 2000 saw the number of settlers in occupied Palestine almost double from about 100,000 people to 200,000 people.
(Source: Peace Now. Excludes East Jerusalem, where another 250,000 settlers or so live.)
Every minute of the ongoing negotiations for a Palestinian state saw Israel undermining the territorial contiguity of that state. Rabin, Peres, and Arafat were shaking hands and winning the Nobel Peace Prize and Israel was continuously transferring tens of thousands of its civilians onto what was ostensibly to become Palestine.
Israel has a long history of using settlements to prevent peace. Its intransigence on settlements must be condemned and overturned, not lauded as “unprecedented” in the “sucking up” language that Clinton used today.