Israeli settlements are not the main obstacle to peace and their prospective limited expansion does not preclude the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state, according to a Washington Post editorial published on Wednesday.

In “Overheated rhetoric on Israeli settlements,” the paper’s editors denounced as “counterproductive” the international community’s incessant criticism of Israeli plans to build thousands of housing units across the Green Line, primarily in Jerusalem, as doing so “reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible.”

But the paper’s editorial board came out against any unilateral action, whether on the part of Israel or the Palestinians, which “complicate[s] the negotiations that are the only realistic route to a Middle East peace.”

With respect to settlement construction in general, the Washington Post’s editors highlighted the fact that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had adopted the policy of his predecessors by “limit[ing] building [in settlements] almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement.”

The paper, citing a study by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, said this will enable 80 percent of Israeli settlers to be incorporated into Green Line Israel as part of a peace deal through agreed upon land swaps approximating 4% of the West Bank – or less than the 5% proposed by US president Bill Clinton 12 years ago.

With respect to plans to build in E1 in particular, the Washington Post attributed Israel’s motivation to the desire to “prevent Ma’aleh Adumim – which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal – from being isolated”; which “is the same reason the Palestinians claim that Israeli annexation of the land would cut off their would-be capital in east Jerusalem from the West Bank.”

Accordingly, the paper believes that the status of E1 “is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, not by fiat,” and that it is “hardly the ‘almost fatal blow’ to a two-state solution that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described.”

The editorial also emphasizes the hypocrisy of such rhetoric at the same time the Security Council is doing nothing to halt the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians in Syria.

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