In November 2009, Israel’s government imposed an unprecedented freeze on settlement activity in the West bank (Judea and Samaria); unprecedented because the existence of the settlements has never been an obstacle to peace negotiations, nor has their removal been a precondition for continued talks. Why is this? Because the removal or continuance of the settlements is a matter for final status negotiations and not for initial talks. Israel, the Palestinian leadership and the various Western states involved know this.
Israel implemented the ten month freeze in an attempt to kick-start a new round of peace talks, because Israel and her citizens genuinely desire peace in their nation and an end to existential threats from without and terror attacks from within her international borders.
True to form, the Palestinian leadership shunned the opportunity to return to the negotiating table, declaring that the freeze was a meaningless gesture. However, as the freeze period came to an end, they then said that they would only come to the table if the freeze was continued!
In short, the Palestinian posturing was a further measure to avoid having to talk seriously about key issues – and particularly to avoid calls to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. To do so would be to recognise her right to exclude millions of Arab “refugees’ from her borders and the fact of her existence on territory muslims claim as Islamic property.
Recently, Palestinian lead negotiator Saab Erekat shot himself in the foot by admitting that Jewish settlements only take up just over 1% of the West Bank. He did not, however, go on to address the question of how such a minute area can possibly be an obstacle to continuing talks on much more significant matters.
You can read more on this faux pas by Erekat in this article in Commentary magazine on 17th November, which reveals the claims of Israel’s critics that settlements must be frozen again to be a further attempt to delegitimise her on the international stage.