The prospective end of the settlement freeze on September 26, as well as the prospect of its renewal, have provoked a wave of hysteria from politicians, journalists and activists. The phrase most frequently used is "down to the wire" (meaning explained here). An anonymous questioner at the U.S. State Department press briefing initiated this exchange:
QUESTION:..You're wanting to let it run down to the wire, potentially to the 25th or the actual 26th before you come up with or offer a suggestion to get beyond that?
Robert Danin, former State Department talking head and currently a talking head at the Council on Foreign Relations opined:
This issue is likely to be a white knuckler that will go down to the wire.
The J Street Lobby told its email readership that we are "Down to the wire on settlements" and asked them to bombard Israel ambassador Michael Oren with letters asking for an extension of the settlement construction freeze, because that, supposedly will bring peace.
The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators is set to request on Tuesday that Israel extend the settlement moratorium currently in place in the West Bank, explaining that the freeze has had a positive impact on peace talks, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Let's be exact.This is not about a "moratorium" on "settlements." No new Israeli settlements of any kind will be built in the West Bank if the deadline expires.
This is not "down to the wire" either. There is no race, and therefore no wire. There will probably not be a peace agreement even if Israel agrees to extend the so-called "settlement freeze."
This is not only about the West Bank either. The freeze extends to Jewish areas and neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, which Hillary Clinton and company choose to see as "settlements"
From the first, it was evident that the so-called settlement freeze was always about Jerusalem. Remember the great noise that the Americans and the Palestinians made when Israel announced new construction in Jerusalem? U.S envoy Mitchell guaranteed a construction freeze in east Jerusalem.
Donniel Hartman wrote:
"This is the context within which we must assess the issue of the settlement building freeze. Any settlement expansion outside the areas of Jerusalem, the Etzion bloc, Maaleh Adumim, and Ariel, undermine the authenticity of our commitment to bring the occupation to an end and are thus simply immoral."
Hartman and his readers do not understand: For Abbas and for the Americans, building in Jerusalem is like building anywhere else in the so called "West Bank," whether it is Hebron or Yitzhar or Gush Etzion. Hartman's "moral" proposition, so reasonable-sounding to other Zionists, would cause conniption fits in the White House. Abbas would never accept it. Everyone talks about the "settlement freeze," but nobody seems to know what it is. Nobody knows, or people like Hartman make believe that they don't know, that Jerusalem is included, not to mention the Etzion bloc, Maaleh Adumim, and Ariel. Abbas means to have every square centimeter, and he has the backing of the American government.
My grandfather taught in the Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem before Hillary Clinton and Mahmoud Abbas were born. My mother studied there. This year, my daughter will study there. But Hillary Clinton and the quartet insist that the Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus, as well as Jewish neighborhoods such as French Hill, Ramat Eshkol and Ramat Shlomo are "illegal settlements."
If the freeze is extended, there will be no building in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is not mentioned in any of the news reports or opinion columns I have seen. It is all about the "West Bank."
The American government is supposedly seeking a three month extension to the settlement freeze, obviously to include Jerusalem. The Israeli government has reportedly come up with a bizarre suggestion: The U.S. will free Jonathan Pollard in exchange for an extension of the so-called "settlement freeze."
In effect, the Israeli government announced that it can be blackmailed into giving up Jewish claims to Jerusalem. Soon someone will suggest that Israel should give up Tel Aviv in return for the release of Gilad Shalit. As Groucho Marx said, "These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."
The so-called "settlement freeze" issue is a red herring. It was invented by the Palestinians to throw a monkey wrench in the peace talks and to assert their specious claim to east Jerusalem. Their argument was that Israeli settlement construction was creating "facts on the ground" that would prevent Palestinians from forming a state.
The dispute was never about settlements in the West Bank.Israeli construction will not affect any future peace settlement. If territory is given to Palestinians, it will not matter what settlements were built on it. This was the case in 1949 when Israel abandoned settlements in Gaza after the Israel War of Independence; it was the case when Israel abandoned Yamit and Neviot (Nuweiba) and Di-Zahav (Dahab) and Sharm el Sheikh to the Egyptians, and it was the case when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Who can forget?? "Facts on the ground" in the form of settlements never stood in the way of agreements. The man who gave up the Gaza settlements in 2005, and the man who convinced Menachem Begin to give up Yamit, was Mister "facts on the ground" himself, Ariel Sharon.
The Americans bought the Palestinian ploy. Mahmoud Abbas dug a great big trap for the Israelis, and the Israeli government is obligingly falling into the trap.
As long as there is any building on the other side of the green line, Abbas is not obligated to talk.He has set it up that way. This is convenient for Abbas, Talking to Israelis is bad for your health if you are an Arab leader, and especially if you are a Palestinian leader. It leads to criticism like this; "Abbas could leave disastrous legacy." For those who did not understand: Only dead people can leave a legacy.
Dead or alive, if Abbas keeps talking, he will have to discuss the real issues, such as: Recognition of the Jewish people, and of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, giving up the "right" of return for Arab Palestinian refugees of 1948, and admitting that Jews just might have some national connection with Jerusalem. The Israeli government should keep the focus on these issues. Abbas will never raise those issues. The year allocated by the quartet to negotiations will pass, and then another year, and then another. Abbas will never budge an inch. Each time Israel will be asked to extend the "settlement freeze" in the so-called "West Bank."
Israel should offer to extend the freeze on construction of new housing in the West Bank, but should specify very carefully, so that even Donniel Hartman and his followers, even Peace Now supporters, even Hillary Clinton, can understand: Jerusalem neighborhoods are not "settlements." Jerusalem is not in the "West Bank". To make doubly sure that Israel is not blamed for the failure of the peace talks, the ban on construction in east Jerusalem should be extended as well, but only in return for real concessions, not freeing of this or that hostage. The Americans, at least, should admit that Israel has legitimate national claims in east Jerusalem, and should recognize some part of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.