Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Facts on the Ground: the Israeli Settlement Slowdown

by Elliott Abrams
June 19, 2014


Criticism of construction in Israeli settlements has grown in the last five years, not least in Washington–but in this same period Israel has been focusing more and more of the construction in less and less of the West Bank. In a new article at the Foreign Affairs web site entitled “Facts on the Ground: Inside Israel’s Settlement Slowdown,” Uri Sadot and I explain the story Here are some excerpts:

Under Netanyahu’s current government, construction outside the so-called major settlement blocs — the areas most likely to remain part of Israel in a final peace settlement — has steadily decreased. Over the past five years, the number of homes approved for construction in the smaller settlements has amounted to half of what it was during Netanyahu’s first premiership in 1996–99. Moreover, the homes the government is now approving for construction are positioned further west, mostly in the major blocs or in areas adjacent to the so-called Green Line, the de facto border separating Israel from the West Bank. The 1,500 units that Israel announced plans for earlier this month were also in the major blocs and in East Jerusalem, continuing the pattern…

Israeli construction is now concentrated in Jerusalem and the major blocs — in the two percent of the West Bank territory that the Palestinian leadership was apparently willing to accept as Israeli in 2008.

The Israelis are still constructing beyond the security fence and in areas inside the fence that will undoubtedly be hotly contested in any future negotiation over a final agreement. But there is a paradox in the increasingly frequent denunciations of Israeli construction in the United States and Europe: they are coming at the same time as Israeli construction has become increasingly limited to areas that even Palestinians acknowledge will ultimately remain part of Israel.

Accusations that Netanyahu is reluctant to negotiate for peace bury the true headline: that his government has unilaterally reduced Israeli settlement construction and largely constrained it to a narrow segment of territory…. Israel is still constructing, but not in a way that will prevent a realistic peace settlement.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Noam

    Please comment on the critique that the data you relied on is tendentious and misleading, as presented here:

    Facts on the Ground: Elliot Abrams’ Flawed Defense of Bibi’s Settlement Push


  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    The reply has just been posted.

  • Posted by Bear Klein

    The conflict has for 100 years been about one issue the Arabs (now called Palestinians) do not accept the permanent presence of a Jewish Nation State in the middle east.

    More and more people in Israel are getting away from the destructive concept of a two state solution. This is just a formula for war from a less desirable position.

    Israel did not possess Judah and Samaria before 1967 but the Arabs were still intent then on destroying Israel. In fact PLO charter of 1964, states Gaza and the West Bank belong to Egypt and Jordan respectively. The PLO then and now desired to destroy Israel and replace the Jews with Arabs.

    The TWO STATE SOLUTION IS DEAD PLEASE HELP BURY IT and replace it a new paradigm. See Naphtali Bennett’s new proposal (link below), in which Israel will annex Area C where 450,000 Jews live and around 45K Arabs (who would be offered citizenship). The IDF would remain in Judah and Samaria for security and the PA in Areas A&B (95 % of Palestinians live their with no Jews) would have their own government to manage their own affairs and have freedom of movement there.

    The plan is not perfect as Bennett says and does not offer a magic pill to end the conflict but it offers stability and a new way forward. The hope of normal co-existence and peace in the long run.


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