Stage 3 of settlement moratorium is all part of Biden effect

Much of the world already believes Israel is anti-peace. Now the critics have more ammunition to back up their argument.

The timing of the Defense Ministry’s decision to begin Stage 3 of the freeze on settlement construction next week is part of the “Biden effect,” or in simpler terms, an effort by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to show the world that he means business and wants peace.
While it is difficult to quantify the long-term damage caused by the Interior Ministry’s decision earlier this week to approve a major construction project in east Jerusalem while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, there is no question that it has caused Israel a great deal of short-term diplomatic harm.
Much of the world already believes Israel is anti-peace. Now the critics have more ammunition to back up their argument.
The demolition of five foundations in the Gush Etzion settlements of Efrat and Bat Ayin on Thursday was aimed at creating a different perception – showing the world that while Israel may approve housing projects in east Jerusalem (which would likely only begin in a few years’ time), it is serious about enforcing the West Bank moratorium, which was passed by the government in late 2009 to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.
The problem, though, is that the moratorium, which has been in place for almost five months, has yet to have the desired effect. While it was hailed by world leaders – including President Barack Obama – as the right step, it has yet to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, and even the proximity talks endorsed by the Arab League earlier this week were placed in jeopardy by the Ramat Shlomo dispute.
At the same time, the lack of diplomatic progress has the IDF concerned over an escalation in Palestinian terror attacks in the West Bank. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has publicly called for popular resistance.
The IDF has no doubt that the demonstrations it faces weekly in Bil’inand Ni’lin, as well as other parts of the West Bank, are supported bythe Palestinian Authority leadership, including Fayyad.
On the flip side, the IDF could find itself facing growing Jewishextremism. The moratorium has already caused settler frustration. Theadvance to Stage 3, which provides for criminal charges againstviolators, will likely further escalate that feeling. As thefrustration grows, settler attacks, like the one allegedly carried outin the village of Yasuf in December that has yet to be solved, are amajor concern.