For the first time in nearly two years, Israel and the Palestinian Authority
will be resuming direct negotiations in Washington this week, amid a great deal
In a clear sign of the occasion’s significance, President
Barack Obama personally set aside several hours between his frequent vacations
to host the restart of the talks, while former British prime minister Tony Blair
abandoned the lucrative lecture circuit for a few days to attend the
Can this possibly just be business as usual? With all the
clinking of champagne glasses at the festive diplomatic dinner, and the
inevitable poses for the political paparazzi, some might be tempted to
away by all the hope and change that seems to be in the air.
the diplomatic process has been stalled for some 20 months now, and the
that Israel and the PA leadership are again looking at each other across
clearly marks an advance in the right direction.
Or does it? Before you
get too excited, consider the following.
Even before the talks began, PA
President Mahmoud Abbas was already at work blaming Israel for their
failure. In a speech in Ramallah on Sunday, he said, “I clearly state
we notified the Americans and international officials that Israel will
and full responsibility for the collapse of negotiations should
Like a bride placing a call to her divorce lawyer as
she comes down the aisle, Abbas is laying the groundwork for a letdown.
setting foot in the American capital, he was effectively trying to
to extend the 10- month freeze on construction in the Jewish communities
Judea and Samaria that is due to expire on September 26.
BY ASSERTING a
linkage between settlement building and the continuation of talks, Abbas
seeking to impose unilateral preconditions on the conduct of the
This, of course, is completely unacceptable and should be
met with a straightforward, yet firm response. In other words, it’s time
Jewish state to rev up the bulldozers. Let’s start building again
length and breadth of Judea and Samaria.
This is the only way to ensure
that the Palestinians will at last understand that they cannot decree
Sure, you might be thinking, but then won’t Israel be giving
Abbas precisely the excuse he wants to storm away from the talks? But
question itself contains the answer. For if Abbas is already looking for
pretext to walk out, what is the point of negotiating with him in the
place? If he isn’t serious about talking, why on earth should we be?
Like it or
not, if the diplomatic process is to have any chance of succeeding, then
cannot, and must not, allow the Palestinians to think they can dictate
policy should be, whether via threats, pressure or intimidation.
thing Israel, or the process itself, can afford is for the Jewish state
a further sense of weakness or frailty. Time and again, since the start
Oslo track in 1993, concessions and capitulation have only invited a
aggressive Palestinian stance.
It is time to break the cycle of
submission, and underline our right to each and every part of this
For far too long, the Left and the media have fed us the mantra
that “settlements are the obstacle to peace.”
Despite the rhetoric, they
never have been. Not once.
The true obstacle to peace remains what it has
always been: the Palestinian refusal to accept a permanent and sovereign
presence in the land of Israel.
Palestinian leaders continue to harbor
fantasies of annihilation, which is why they have been loath to accept
most generous of Israeli offers.
Indeed, it wasn’t a lack of Israeli
generosity that torpedoed peace, but an excess of Palestinian
And that is one reason why settlements are so important: They
disabuse the Palestinians of their deeply-held notion that Israel is a
Think about it: Every red-tiled Israeli roof that is erected
on the outskirts of Ramallah, every Hebrew hothouse that goes up south
Hebron, is a tangible reminder to Abbas and his colleagues that the
people are back to stay.
If each time they look out their windows, the
Palestinian leadership is faced with a steadily growing Jewish horizon,
will be forced to accept this basic truth.
Then, and only then, will
peace have a chance.
Personally, I believe Israel should expand Jewish
communities in Judea and Samaria because of our divinely-given right to
And I do not want Israel to give up control over any part of our
But the bottom line is that wherever you stand on
the question of territory – Right or Left – settlements serve to advance
Israel’s values and interests.
So let’s get those engines going and start
pouring some more concrete.
Both because it is good for Israel and,
ironically, also for peace.