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The United States Just Made Middle East Peace Harder

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
December 23, 2016
Washington Post


Sizing up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upon assuming office, President Obama decided Israeli settlements were the problem, and he insisted on a total freeze on construction. What followed were eight years of deadlock, the deterioration of U.S. relations with Israelis and Palestinians alike, and widespread disillusionment with the two-state solution.

Despite this track record, Obama is leaving off where he began: I n a departure from Washington’s typical role as Israel’s defender at the United Nations, the United States refused to use its veto and allowed the adoption of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

For his part, President-elect Donald Trump had urged that the United States veto the resolution. Trump’s argument wasn’t merely that Obama should defer to his successor’s views or that the resolution was anti-Israel. It was that the measure would impede rather than advance Israeli-Palestinian peace — and he was right.

First, the resolution fails to distinguish between construction in the so-called blocs — that is, settlements west of Israel’s security barrier in which about 80 percent of settlers live — and construction east of the barrier. Building in the major blocs is relatively uncontroversial in Israel and rarely the subject of Palestinian protests.

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