Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz unpacks the lacklustre American efforts to bring “peace” to the Middle East:
And let’s say Israel does freeze construction. What is Washington’s policy regarding the 300,000 settlers currently living in the territories, in settlements that no American president was determined enough to stop? If a plan to construct 900 housing units in Gilo bothers Obama, what does he think about the 40,000 Israelis already living there? What is the point in demanding a construction freeze if it does not involves a comprehensive plan that determines the borders between Israel and Palestine, and where Jews can or can’t live? After all, that will be the next question in negotiations, to which end Obama has Netanyahu in a pincer grip.
It is increasingly seeming that the demand for a settlement freeze is no more than a desire to chalk up some sort of achievement, one that does not change the status quo but does grant prestige. That suspicion is based on the fact that the United States has had nothing to say about the Israeli-Syrian conflict. If peace in the Middle East is so important, why is Washington not speaking out about the settlements in the Golan Heights? Why does the United States not call a Syrian-Israeli summit? Are negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Assad less important than those with Abbas? The Arab peace initiative, it should be noted, involves Israeli withdrawal from all the territories.
The freeze in settlement construction is an essential step in a meaningful peace plan. Standing alone, it is a hollow gesture.