Trump settles in on settlements

Ted Belman. Abrams seems to think that this understanding as laid out is a “sensible deal”, just like the Bush years. Why? Because Israelis now know where they can build. But they don’t know how many they can build and that is as important as where. The question now is, “why is the quantity an issue at at?” And then there is a second limitation, Israel can’t annex anything. So clearly Israel is not the master in its own house. She has given up the right to chart her own course.

This isn’t a recent phenomena. Remember when we were building the security fence, America micromanaged where it could be built. The US doesn’t have the right to override our sovereignty but it has the power to do so. We need the US to stand with us in the UN and against Iran and to resupply us when necessary, to name a few.  The preservation of the territories  for a two state solution is the key demand made on Israel. The US doesn’t have to so limit us, they choose to.

By Elliot Abrams, ISRAEL HAYOM

Israeli settlement activity has been in the news this past week because the Trump administration is steadily defining its policy. What has emerged is a good policy: sensible, flexible and realistic. Which is to say, it’s a lot like former U.S. President George W. Bush’s policy.

President Barack Obama’s policy had made construction in the settlements a sore point for eight full years. This was one reason among many for the constant tension between the government of Israel and that of the United States during all of Obama’s term in office.

What are the terms of the agreement between the Israeli government and the Trump administration? First, there is no written agreement, and that’s a good thing. There are understandings. That means there can be some arguments, but no accusations that “you’re violating what you signed.”

Second, the Trump administration understands that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and does not view construction there as “settlement activity.”

Third, Israel will not build any new settlements except the one promised to the families evicted from the outpost of Amona, deemed illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court and recently demolished. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu persuaded the American administration that he had made that commitment to the people of Amona last year, before the Trump presidency, and needed to keep it.

Fourth, new construction in settlements in Judea and Samaria will be confined to existing communities, or if that’s impossible, as close to them as possible.

Fifth, there will be some restraint in the pace of settlement expansion.

Sixth, apparently Netanyahu agreed not to permit new “outposts” to be built — small groups of houses erected without government permission.

And finally, there will be no annexation of land in Judea and Samaria.

This closely resembles the Bush-Sharon understandings of 2003 and 2004. The “deal” was no new settlements, no seizure of additional land for settlements, construction in already built-up areas, and no financial inducements to move to a settlement (e.g., a cheap, government-provided mortgage).

The goals are the same: to limit the physical expansion of settlements so that the Israeli footprint in Judea and Samaria does not become larger and larger; to keep most population growth in the larger blocs that will remain part of Israel in any final status agreement; and to prevent this issue from occupying center stage and being a constant irritant to the two governments.

This is smart. The alternative approach, that of the Obama administration under George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama, was not. By treating all construction — in Jerusalem, the major blocs, and the smallest outlying settlements — exactly the same, that Obama approach created a huge Israeli consensus against U.S. policy.

The Trump approach is politically sensible: Most Israelis do not think of construction in Jerusalem or the big settlements like Maaleh Adumim to be anything like construction in some tiny settlement far beyond the Israeli security barrier. So this deal should be sustainable.

There will no doubt be arguments, as noted, over some questions. For example, is some new apartment house really as close to the already built-up area as it can be? But we dealt with such matters in the Bush years. The prime minister’s office would call, we’d discuss what was planned, and we would not allow these things to sour the terrific relationship between the president and the prime minister, or between the two governments. That’s the way it should be, and that appears to be what Trump has in mind.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is reprinted with permission and can be found on Abrams’ blog “Pressure Points.”

From “Pressure Points” by Elliott Abrams. Reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.

April 5, 2017 | 5 Comments » | 59 views

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7 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. Companion piece to Abrams, 04 05 2017 at Politico:

    “…the early steps have been something of a coup for the struggling Trump administration. Crippled by major policy setbacks at home, it appears to have the Israeli government on a tighter leash — and heeling in a way that President Barack Obama, for the most part, never managed.

    “The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration,” said one White House official. “The United States welcomes this. The president is a renowned negotiator.”

    Added Ross: “What I’m struck by now is how Trump genuinely wants to see something happen. The Greenblatt visit was a very serious one, based on what I heard from both sides. Both sides saw a demeanor of someone who was learning as much as he could.”

  2. So the review of the situation is that ambiguity reins supreme.
    Bibi has said he will take Trumps request into account. We can build but not to our actual needs to solve a shortage and assert sovereignty in a practical real sense, asserting our rights to our land.

    The conflict is being managed and the the Two State concept so dangerous to Israel hangs on in theory but not in practice.

    So this leaves Israel vulnerable to the next Obama or even worse President. Trump makes nice with the Sunni Gulf Arabs/Egypt/Jordan and dreams of being “Deal Maker Supreme” in history who solved the Israeli Jewish – Arab Muslim conflict. Clearly everyone in Israel (right, center & left) know that this is not going to happen. Knowledgeable people elsewhere know this including in the Trump Administration.

    This is highly disappointing. Yes an improvement from Obama who would have imposed a deal if he was able on Israel. He was not able thanks in large part because naturally Abbas was not going to give on any point of contention.

    So Israel awaits a leader who will make his mission to create a new paradigm and apply Israeli civil law to the Jewish Towns in Judea/Samaria and the Jordan Valley plus find a solution to the Arab enemies in Judea/Samaria/Gaza.

    Clearly Bibi is not that leader. We waited 2000 years for Israels rebirth so we will longer to solve the current issues.

  3. Most Israelis do not think of construction [where they live] to be anything like construction in some tiny settlement far beyond the Israeli security barrier.

    We can build where we want, but you can’t build where you want.

    The security zone is to protect us, but not you.

    Just shut up and pay your taxes.

  4. guess as ISRAEL is now part and parcel of trumps real-estate empire all ISRAELIS can now claim u s citizenship???

  5. All baloney, nothing to do with Trump, it’s all BB. As I predicted, any changes in Trumps original declarations are changes that Bb requested from Trump. Talking about Trump on Israel issues is a waste of time. All we see is that Trump appears to have mysteriously morphed into policies which are exact mirror images of BB’s prior policies and Trump has now even assumed the play acting role of the bad guy to make BB look good.
    Trump was clear, he did not care about the pals.
    After Trump election Bb publicly begged Trump for a TSS after Trump said it was not necessary,then according to Trump official Bb requested a delay on moving embassy which Trump had declared prior to move, then when BB went to US he requested a private meeting with Trump only attended by Trump and Kushner and subsequently Trump envoys no problem with settlements policy suddenly morphed into the same BB policy of restricting settlement to within only existing major blocks. BB knew that if anyone else was present his fraudulent MO would be leaked and he would lose the right wing too early

    BB told Trump that he needed to delay the embassy and restrict settlement in order to maintain his understandings with the Sunni Arabs towards a peace deal and that if Trump would play along he could make a peace deal, of purse Trump would go along with the show. If the right wing leader wants it why would Trump argue with him. That’s probably why Trump says he thinks a deal can be had.

    Folks here will continue in self delusion to pretend that its Trump and those who seek more of YS for Jews outside the major blocks won’t get it with BB as PM

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