Israeli Settlements, American Pressure, and Peace

– Steven J. Rosen, JCPA

View the study (PDF)


Mahmoud Abbas participated in 18 years of direct negotiations with seven Israeli governments, all without the settlements freeze that he now insists is an absolute precondition to begin even low-level talks.
President Obama’s failure to distinguish construction in east Jerusalem from settlement activity in the West Bank put him at odds with the Israeli consensus. No major party in Israel, and no significant part of the Jewish public, is willing to count the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements” to be “frozen.”

The Sharon government reached an understanding with the Bush administration to ban outward geographic expansion of established settlements, while reserving the right to continue expansion inside the “construction line” of existing houses. Almost all the construction that the Netanyahu administration has allowed is either in Jerusalem or in the settlement blocs, the two categories that Israel had thought were protected by understandings with the Americans.

Israelis were bitterly disappointed by the Obama administration’s refusal to acknowledge agreements with a prior U.S. government that the Israelis considered vital and binding. Sharon aide Dov Weissglas said, “If decision-makers in Israel…discover, heaven forbid, that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges.”

Stalled peace negotiations in the Obama years cannot be blamed on Netanyahu’s policies of accelerating settlement construction. He has in fact slowed it down. What has undermined peace negotiations, rather, is Obama’s policy on the settlements – and the unrealistic expectations that policy has nourished.

Steven J. Rosen is Director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum and served for 23 years with AIPAC.

June 17, 2012 | 13 Comments »

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13 Comments / 13 Comments

  1. Arnold, congratulations for getting your state back. As for regional planning, especially concerning flood seasons, I have advocated for the following for years: The eastern coast and the Midwest yearly have devastating floods where costs are extremely high, however, here in the Southwestern part of the US we suffer severe droughts. If we can lay pipelines for oil and other products, we should be able to use pipelines in those ares where floods occur to funnel that excess water from there to the drought areas. It would solve a lot of problems in both areas, but no one listens.

  2. @ Arnold Harris:

    It matters not to me if you respond or not. You have your opinions which you voice and I mine.

    Harris I have always found it curious that the most militant blowhards commenting in blogs like this are those least likely to put themselves at risk. Easy to be a brave militant when others take all the risks, pay the price in blood and treasure.

    Your nationalism ends at the borders of the USA and in regards to Israel I submit you are not a nationalist or patriotic Jew, but little more than a fan cheering or booing from the sidelines but not a player.

    Fans however ardent can never replace the team. On our team only the players count

  3. @ Arnold Harris:

    no smart growth is possible unless it is preceded by even smarter regional planning.

    Your precisely correct. Fortunately we had and do from time to time secure the service of professionals like yourself. We have a regional planning commission (2 counties, 3 cities, 27 boroughs & 27 townships) who oversees all the local communities to be sure we are all on the same page with orderly growth in accordance with the long-term objectives, principles and standards that are in the best interest and welfare of its inhabitants and political subdivisions.

    Stormwater management is high on the list. It is as though every storm is a 100 year storm and due to the lack of good stormwater management in the past flooding has become a problem in areas never experienced before.

    Good planning is a serious business and it not only effects your own community but those of your neighbors.

  4. Everybody,

    Please take note that well over a year ago, I ceased arguing with Mr Yamit82. That is the best way to respond to all but ceaseless insults from people who are not within arm’s reach. Life is too short to get sucked into unceasing but otherwise meaningless provocations in blogsite wars.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  5. @ rongrand:

    I too have served on various planning commissions. In addition, I did consulting planning work for various regional planning commissions, including the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission (UMRBC), and I was executive director of a multi-county regional planning commission more than 30 years ago.

    My wife, Stefi Harris, and I some years ago organized an initiative called the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment (WDC/SGE). We have spent some years analyzing the pathetic, politics-ridden wastefulness of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC), which was supposed to come up with an updated Water Quality Plan for Dane County, but has never done so. Most of their time has been spent rubber-stamping proposals of various developers to convert Dane County’s farmlands into yet more urban sprawl. These proposals are then turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI-DNR) for final review and approval. In practice, WI-DNR has over-ridden both the urban service area (USA) extension requests, which, when approved, permit extension of infrastructural systems such as sewer and water. The problem is that Dane County already has residential build-out that is not likely to be filled in the near future or possibly in any predictable near-term time frame.

    As you undoubtedly know, Ron, no smart growth is possible unless it is preceded by even smarter regional planning. We have nothing around here to meet such expectations. Instead, the taxpayers of Dane County are spending $800 thousand to $1 million per year paying for a staff that knows little or nothing about regional planning and not enough even about stormwater management, and important consideration in a northern state such as Wisconsin. We are attempting to get the local county board of supervisors to consider voting a resolution to ask the re-elected governor, Scott Walker, to simply pull the plug on CARPC, which we could do, inasmuch as his predecessor, former Governor James Doyle, originally authorized establishment of CARPC by edict.

    What they should also be focusing on, in some replacement set of institutional arrangements, should include fiscal impact analysis regarding physical infrastructure; road construction and maintenance; expenses for additional schools; teachers and/or classroom space; law enforcement; fire protection; emergency management services; and tax base impacts of mostly-agricultural townships that incrementally lose their lands and tax revenues because of urban sprawl generated by their municipal neighbors. I don’t want to sound like a southern Wisconsin version of Bill Kunstler, but I don’t really want Dane County to wind up looking like a cold weather version of Los Angeles County or Orange County in southern California.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  6. “Israelis were bitterly disappointed by the Obama administration’s refusal to acknowledge agreements with a prior U.S. government that the Israelis considered vital and binding. Sharon aide Dov Weissglas said, ‘If decision-makers in Israel…discover, heaven forbid, that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges’.

    What’s more, if American administrations resort to playing that game, then US decision makers may discover that two can play the same game

    — and that Israeli govts will disavow the binding nature of agreements with America by prior Israeli govts.

    What’s good for the goose

    — is good for the gander.

  7. @ Arnold Harris:

    Your a good man Arnold.

    I am in my 25th year serving on our local planning commission.

    The country needs good planners like yourself.

  8. Ketzaleh: No Violence, We’ll Say ‘Shema Yisrael’
    MK Katz says “tires will not burn” at Givat HaUlpana – “One of our hands will not beat the other.”

    By Gil Ronen

    Ketzaleh is a fool and a loser. Since he became leader of the NU party he has not called one right. BB could not have a more compatible leader of an opposition party than ketzaleh. Anyone who follows and listens to him gets what they deserve.

    The only thing that has moved any Israeli government from a stated position is the threat of violence.

  9. @ Eddie:

    All settlements must be uprooted for Israel to be in compliance with international law. Arnold Harris is the kind of Jew who corrupts and endangers other Jews.

    Just so that we all understand, pls. state the International law that we are not in compliance with.

  10. @ roamnrab:

    Mr. Harris’ comments are intellectually informed and well stated.

    What ever happened to freedom of expression and voicing opinions not necessarily popular?

    Re: Harris, the best that can be said of him is that he is benign. Re: Jews he is neither harmful nor helpful. He talks tough on another’s dime from the absolute safety of Mount Horeb WI.

  11. @ Eddie:
    Dear Eddie,

    While the cornerstone of Democracy is Freedom of Expression, I think it would be more manners like of you to keep your livid “Progressive” ideology and People Bashing for the Proverbial Peanut Gallery.

    Mr. Harris’ comments are intellectually informed and well stated. If you don’t like them (if they disturb your emotional balance)my prescription to you is “Just Abstain” from viewing this highly esteemed blog and/or those astute, bold individuals who post here.

    Rephua Sh’leima, B’Karrov!

  12. All settlements must be uprooted for Israel to be in compliance with international law. Arnold Harris is the kind of Jew who corrupts and endangers other Jews.

  13. If Israel had not engaged in large scale settlement of Shomron and Yehuda in the 45 years since the Six Day War of June 1967, planting a Jewish population that is now approximately 350,000, then no groundwork would exist — as it does today — for outright annexation of Area C as defined by the Oslo Accord maps and of later annexation and intensive Jewish settlement of at least Area B and even parts of Area A.

    And any such action as described above would have rendered meaningless the annexation of the eastern neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem itself, and would have rendered united Jerusalem as little more than a Jewish eyeball surrounded by the skull of a permanently Arab-controlled Shomron and Yehuda.

    Nobody gets very far in pursuing and achieving a master’s degree in urban and regional planning without careful consideration of the “central place theory” as taught by the pre-World War II German geographer Walther Christaller. His theory, as I studied it as a fellowship grantee at the Institute of Geography of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1973-1974 study year, holds that settlements around a central place tend to arrangement of triangular/hexagonal lattices within the context of significant variables such as marketing patterns, transportation links and administrative functions.

    Clearly, Jerusalem is nothing less than the grand central place of the whole of Eretz Yisrael. With exclusion or loss of so great a percentage of its surrounding districts, Jerusalem would suffer something of the same fate that reduced the great city of Vienna to the status of a second-rate city after the breakup of the Hapsburg-controlled Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, of which Vienna had been the imperial capital. That was the same fate of Venice in the centuries after that formerly-powerful city-state lost its trading empire which had dominated the Mediterranean Sea has even had influenced the use of trade routes overland from southern Europe to China by way of the Middle East and Anatolya.

    So as a trained regional planner and geographer as well a Jewish nationalist, I can think of nothing happening in Israel these years than the Jewish settlement of Shomron and Yehuda, and the expectation — and insistence — that this must result in annexation of these districts to the binding permanent control once again of the united Jewish nation. No other outcome is either logical or acceptable. And therefore, the voters and citizens of Israel must be given to understand that holding a united Jerusalem is very much dependent upon Israel and the Jewish nation holding in perpetuity Shomron and Yeduda. Without the second necessity, the first necessity cannot be sustainable in the long term.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI