As Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Obama at the White House, the most notable development may have been yet another major settlement announcement–one more step in the wrong direction if Israel is to ever achieve a two-state solution.
The President was correct when he stated at the beginning of the meeting with Netanyahu, “We have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe… but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.”
However, it is difficult to take very seriously Netanyahu’s response, that he remains committed to a two-state solution, in view of his record–as amplified by today’s announcement that Israel has given final approval to build some 2,610 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos.
As Americans for Peace Now pointed out in a statement, “The new settlement project is destructive to the two-state solution because it serves as a last link in a ring of Israeli settlements between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, which cut the southern West Bank from its northern part and thus impedes contiguity for a future Palestinian State.”
In the face of this latest provocation, we renew our call on President Obama to take a tougher stance against settlement expansion, which has gone virtually unchecked for decades and which now threatens to strangle hopes for a two-state solution.
Among other steps, the administration should return to defining West Bank settlements as “illegal,” as was the position of the US government before the 1980s and as is the view of the United Nations, the European Union and most of the world.
Netanyahu also repeated his call for widening peace negotiations to include the wider Arab world. Unfortunately, he continues to ignore the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been on the table since 2002, was updated last year and offers Israel the promise of normal ties with the entire Arab world in the framework of a two-state solution.