Middle-East: US To Drop Settlement Freeze As Condition For Peace Talks
If this decision from the Obama administration is confirmed, and it is likely to be according to a statement from the State Department, it will be viewed by the Palestinians and the Arab world as a sign that the Obama administration is caving in to the refusal by Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to put a freeze on settlements expansion in the occupied West Bank & East-Jerusalem(see photo).
The State Department is insisting that the Obama administration is not changing its mind on the settlements issue. The State Department spokesman Crowley said:
“The United States position on settlements, we’ve said it many times, we haven’t changed it. The key here is getting to the negotiations. Remember what we are trying to achieve here, we are hoping to get to a formal negotiation through which we can reach a resolution between the Israelis & the Palestinians, as part of our ambition to see a comprehensive peace in the Middle-East.”
The reality of this big compromise in the work, from the Obama administration, is that Netanyahu has stubbornly resisted US demands in regard to the settlements freeze. Netanyahu did it again in London, on Wednesday, during his meeting with US envoy George Mitchell.
Thursday, this time in Germany, Angela Merkel urged Netanyahu to stop settlements construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. Merkel made the following statement after her meeting with Israel’s PM:
“I made clear that the Federal Republic of Germany believes that progress on the issue of settlement building, a stop to settlement building, is an important block and a condition for relaunching the Middle-East peace process.”
On Thursday as well, adding his voice to the debate was former President Jimmy Carter. He is currently visiting Israel, and he said that the freeze on Israeli settlements is “absolutely necessary” to achieve peace in the Middle-East.
If the Obama administration drops the settlement freeze requirement as a pre-condition for peace talks, they would reverse back to the standard US policy in the Middle-East since Ronald Reagan. This policy consist in either giving unconditional support to Israel, like during the Bush administration, or being unable to say no, like during the Clinton administration. It is a recipe for failure in either cases, how can you project yourself as an impartial arbitrator if you are always falling in line with the point of view of one of the conflicting parties?