Much ado about Jewish settlements

John O'Neill

Should Israel put a halt to Jewish settlements on the West Bank? Every U.S. president since 1967 has opposed the settlements. But with President Barack Obama, the opposition borders on obsession.

Only this month, through White House spokesman Josh Earnest, President Obama issued his strongest rebuke yet to Israel over the settlements. And the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fears the rebuke(s) will be even stronger after the elections in the United States.

The fear is real. Israel remembers when President Obama on Israeli television in 2015 warned that the United States will have to re-evaluate its alliance with Israel. A valid scenario is that the United States might refuse in the weeks after the elections to use its veto power against any anti-Israel resolution(s) which might arise in the United Nations.

To answer the original question, Israel should probably halt the settlements on the West Bank. But East Jerusalem must be left out of the equation, as anything other than a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a non-starter to the peace process.

Moreover, it is essential to note that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are not at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Look no further than the settlements freeze called by Israel in 2010 when the Palestinians would still not come back to the table.

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a mere sub-section of the overall Israeli-Arab conflict in which Israel’s very existence is at issue. This reality cannot be ignored if a real and secure peace is to be reached.

Of course, the Palestinians deserve a state of their own. But Jewish settlements are not the reason the Palestinians are without a state. The Palestinians would serve themselves better were they to examine their own leadership. After all, Netanyahu last month invited President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to address the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and Abbas turned down the offer.

Not that Netanyahu can be left off the hook. He should enforce another settlement freeze on the West Bank if for no other reason than to pre-empt any rebuke(s) forthcoming from the Obama administration.

Peace is elusive. But it is not unattainable. It requires Mahmoud Abbas to go to Jerusalem to address the Knesset. It requires Benjamin Netanyahu to curtail the aggravating policy of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. And it requires the president of the United States to have a more realistic grasp of the conflict itself.

John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.