Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Won't Abbas Agree To A Freeze Of Palestinian Settlements?

[B]oth the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel -- since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement. Before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference organized by the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia and other Arab participants agreed to what one former senior official called "the Google Earth test"; if the settlements did not visibly expand, that was good enough. [emphasis added]
Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, June 2009

Elder of Ziyon points out that leading up to direct peace talks with Netanyahu, Abbas has raised the stakes, putting the entire responsibility for the success of the talks on Israel in a keynote speech he delivered in Arabic:

I would like to point out here that our attitudes toward the settlements and their legitimacy and to the settlement expansion has not changed. I must say that today, frankly and clearly that we were informed by all parties, including the American sponsor of the negotiations before we agree to participate, that the Government of Israel alone will have to bear responsibility for these negotiations, and the possibility of total collapse and failure, in the event of continued settlement expansion in all its forms and manifestations in other parts of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.[emphasis added]
Read the whole thing.

But if Abbas really wants to make the settlements into the key issue that will make or break the peace talks, talks that have required the US to drag Abbas kicking and screaming to attend, then what better way to kick off those talks than to have a little reciprocity. Surely, Abbas would be willing to freeze his own settlements as well? That is why Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein has suggested Palestinians should halt building as well
If the Palestinians demand the continuation of the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria beyond the 10-month moratorium, Israel should insist that the freeze be reciprocated, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday.

...“The game needs to be played evenly,” Edelstein said. “I suggest that if we face an approach saying that we must continue to stop construction or we would undermine the negotiations, then we should say that the freeze should be imposed on both Israel and the Palestinians.”

Edelstein said that since no one knows what the outcome of the negotiations will be or where the two sides would decide on a border, fair solutions would be for neither side to build, or for both sides to build.
Over at The Muqata, Joe Settler suggests a good place to start would be Rawabi.

As Wikipedia describes it:
Rawabi's municipal boundaries will encompass 6,300,000 square meters of land. The city is planned to include more than 5,000 housing units, spread across 23 neighborhoods. providing accommodation for a population of 25,000 people. Additional residential and commercial units slated for subsequent construction phases will ultimately serve a city with a population of 40,000. The Palestinian National Authority does not need Israeli approval for construction since the land for Rawabi falls entirely within Area 'A', which is under full Palestinian control.
So what do you say, Abu Mazen--ready to show some good faith?

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