The present Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-led government – which according to all recent polls will remain in office after the January 22 election – has been bombarded with condemnations from home and from abroad for building in Jerusalem and in consensus settlement blocs.

Not only European nations traditionally critical of Israel but also allies such as the US and Germany have issued strongly worded denunciations of the housing projects. Even Tzipi Livni, head of a new party bearing her name, and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid have weighed in against the building.

But the fact is that all governments – both left-wing and right-wing – have backed building in Jewish east Jerusalem and in the large settlement blocs. A majority of Israelis have viewed Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem such as Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo and Ramat Shlomo as an integral part of the state since they came into Israeli control in the wake of the Six Day War.

Large settlements such as Efrat, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim are seen as remaining a part of Israel in any two-state solution reached with the Palestinians. Indeed, on at least two occasions – during the 2000 Clinton Parameters negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Barak and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and during the 2008 Annapolis negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas – Israeli government heads insisted on holding onto the major settlement blocs on the West Bank and instead “swapping” land inside the Green Line to compensate for them.

This is clear proof that even centrist or left-of-center governments have seen the large settlement blocs as no less integral to the Jewish state as unsettled land inside the Green Line.

Detractors of the present government’s decision to build inevitably are forced to admit to this fact. But they are quick to add that unlike past governments, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s has failed to keep up negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni said as much in an interview on Israel Radio this week.

The reality, however, is that any real chances for negotiations after Netanyahu’s June 2009 Bar-Ilan speech – in which he publicly supported a two-state solution – were ruined by the major diplomatic blunder of the Obama administration. By demanding that Israel initiate a self-imposed building freeze – including in settlement blocs and in Jewish east Jerusalem – President Barack Obama unintentionally added yet another obstacle to bringing the sides to the negotiating table. Netanyahu’s right-of-center government could never agree to a building freeze in the capital as Washington demanded, because a majority of Israelis would oppose such a move, and the Palestinians would never take a more lenient position on building in Jerusalem than the Americans.

Also, while a strong majority of Israelis has consistently supported a two-state solution for well over a decade, Palestinians both in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and in the West Bank have remained unwavering in their irredentism and if anything have grown more extreme in their rejection of a Jewish state existing anywhere in “Palestine.” A Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll published this week found that a clear majority of Israelis believe that the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state is Israel’s best chance for remaining both Jewish and democratic in 20 years’ time. A full 62 percent supported the principle of “two states for two peoples.”

In contrast, a new poll by Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 48% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would vote for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and just 45% for Abbas, if elections were held today. One of the reasons for Hamas’s increased popularity is its perceived “victory” against Israel during last month’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

In other words, a plurality of Palestinians supports an anti-Semitic terrorist organization (the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is included in its official Charter) that vows to destroy Israel and aims rockets and mortar shells at innocent men, women and children.

It is Palestinian intransigence, not Jewish building in consensus Jerusalem neighborhoods and settlement blocs, that is the real obstacle to a negotiated peace and a two-state solution. Most Israelis understand this, which explains the present government’s popularity. Perhaps one day the world will understand it, too.

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