A reader writes:
Can you tell me how you know that the Israeli settlement freeze is "meant to make Israel look less intransigent than it actually is," instead of making Israel actually less intransigent? I think it is again quite imperious of you to conclude that an action taken at the behest of the international community, and the United States specifically, is actually just a ploy. In the future it may well prove to be that way, but that you know that now displays quite a bias in your writing.
It seems absurd to me that you, a) want Israel to stop settlement construction, and b) criticize their halt of settlement construction as a ploy for the "future total annexation." Was them the Israeli pull out of Lebanon merely a ploy to annex southern Lebanon at some point in the future? Was the disengagement from Gaza a similarly devious plan? And do you really think that Netanyahu does not want peace?
While you may disagree with him about what that peace looks like or the best way to get there, how can you say he wants permanent war? Was your brother killed in a battle? You supported war in Iraq and Afghanistan after one terrorist attack in the United States. Maybe he is more skeptical of how to get to a peace agreement because his family, friends and neighbours have fought in numerous wars, been kidnapped, and had bombs, somewhat regularly, explode in their streets. For you to say that his goal is, "the expansion of Israel in a forever war funded in large part by the US," is not proven by the evidence you cite.
The facts remain that Israel outright refused to freeze all its settlement activity as requested by the US, and indeed continued building settlements in East Jerusalem, thus ensuring the still-birth of the peace process under Obama. In the month before Obama took office, it is also true that the Israeli government pulverized the Gaza ghetto with immense and unrelenting war, killing hundreds of innocents and polarizing the region in ways that made Obama's task all but impossible - and strengthened Hamas. The news from yesterday was that Netanyahu has now stated that even his temporary and incomplete freeze will end soon, after which, in his words, "we will continue to build."
In my judgment, these are not the actions of a government seeking peace or trying to work things out constructively with an ally. And when you look back and see the constant building and settlement in the West Bank, uninterrupted for two decades, you see that there is no way Israel will ever give this land up, and has no sense of how humiliating and provocative this policy is to the people it needs to negotiate a future with. Yes, of course, the Palestinians have hardly been able or united negotiating partners in this. But they are the ones now disenfranchised from any stable home, and powerless in the face of the bulldozers and the construction workers and the roadblocks. Even with a giant wall, the settlements continue far beyond its reach. I'm tired of pretending this isn't happening.
If they don't want to annex the West Bank, they can stop colonizing it. When they colonizing it, as Obama has requested, I'll believe their good intentions for peace.