They Say, We Say: Making a big deal about settlements unnecessarily foments discord between America and Israel.
We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.
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Are settlements really a problem?
Making a big deal about settlements unnecessarily foments discord between America and Israel.
The U.S. has long opposed settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, recognizing settlements as a political and security liability for Israel and an impediment to achieving a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The policy dates back to the birth of the settlement movement and has remained consistent across administrations led by both political parties. This is entirely the correct position for the U.S. and it is unfortunate that successive U.S. administrations have failed to translate this longstanding official opposition to settlements into a coherent policy that has convinced Israel to stop settlement expansion.
For decades U.S. presidents have pressed Israel to stop building settlements. The administration of George W. Bush put settlements under the spotlight with the Mitchell Report and the Roadmap, both of which called for a complete settlement freeze (the latter of which also called for the removal of illegal outposts). The Obama Administration early on sought a settlement freeze. Both of these administrations focused on settlements because settlements are a central obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. It should be emphasized that a settlement freeze is not and has never been an end unto itself: the goal of any peace policy is to achieve a conflict-ending agreement that renders the settlement issue moot. That said, while a settlement freeze need not be a precondition for peace negotiations, continued settlement growth cannot be dismissed or ignored.
For the sake of Israeli-Palestinian peace, the U.S. - regardless of who is in the White House - must convince Israel's leaders that American opposition to settlements can no longer be dismissed. Continued settlement expansion undermines Palestinian moderates, feeds extremism, exacerbates tensions on the ground, and diminishes the chances of achieving a negotiated agreement that could end the conflict. Likewise, Israel's failure to rein in settler renegades threatens the viability of peace efforts.