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An Unworkable Compromise

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
July 20, 2009
National Review


Everyone knows that the Obama administration's demands for a settlement freeze are a huge problem for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition in Jerusalem. But they are also a great problem for the Abbas/Fayyad government of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Why? Because the United States is now seeking some form of compromise, while the Palestinians are seeking a true, unalloyed, immediate, total freeze.

Having failed to bully Netanyahu into a total freeze, U.S. negotiator George Mitchell is said to be asking for a moratorium that would allow completion of all projects already underway, perhaps 2,500-3,000 units. Moreover, that moratorium is said to apply to the West Bank but to be silent about construction in Jerusalem, which would be handled separately. (News reports inform us that the new Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was called to the State Department on July 18 to be browbeaten over new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The demand that it cease was promptly rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu the next day.)

Now, for George Mitchell this may appear to be a decent compromise. For however long the "freeze" lasts, there are no new units started. If the "freeze" lasts long enough - say, six months or a year - there will be a significant and visible reduction in Israeli construction in the West Bank.


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