That was pretty fast. I indicated in my last posting of just a day ago that I likely would not post again before Pesach. And yet here I am.
But when I see the need to clarify something I had written, I like to take the opportunity to do so:
I had reported that an agreement between Israel and the US had been reached on settlement construction, and I then provided the parameters.
Almost immediately thereafter, however, it was reported that the negotiations on the issue were suspended because no agreement had been reached.
Not as confusing as it seems, actually. I had simply ‒ but prematurely ‒ drawn what I thought was a logical conclusion. Israel, which was in negotiations on the issue with the US, announced parameters. I said, “Oh, this is what they have informally agreed upon, then.” (I never imagined a formal agreement.)
There were comments from the American side – for example, regarding the fact that it was understood that the prime minister had committed to a new community for the residents of Amona before negotiations had begun. These comments seemed to be clarifying the US position that had emerged from the negotiations.
Now, from this vantage point I would say that the new community for Amona was almost certainly a key stumbling block in those negotiations. The US did not want to appear to have sanctioned a new community. But our prime minister would not relinquish the demand that this be part of the mutual understanding.
It likely worked better for both parties this way. The announcement of the breakdown of the negotiations came very shortly after the approval by the Security Cabinet for building that new community. The US stepped back quickly from appearing to be on board with this. But they put out something that was an acknowledgment of our intention to move ahead.
The additional parameters announced by the prime minister were generous in their description of where building might be done inside existing communities (it being understood that no other new communities would be built). Actually I was surprised at how generous. As it turns out, these were guidelines put forth by Israel unilaterally. Something that had been agreed upon bilaterally would likely have been less generous.
As I pointed out yesterday, having guidelines that provide for extensive building and actually doing the building are two different matters. There is no question that – formal agreements totally aside – it is understood by Netanyahu that Trump wants us to slow down building and that he intends to honor this at some yet to be determined level.
At the same time, the Trump Administration has indicated it does not intend to focus on settlements to the exclusion of other issues relevant to “peace.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett criticized the prime minister, saying he lost his opportunity to propose an alternative to the “two state solution.” True.
But I understand Netanyahu’s reluctance to anger the president. That would not have been politic; as he said, it’s such a friendly administration.
The prime minister is not talking “two states,” even if most of the world is. I think he’s handling himself well. There is nothing in what he laid out that specifically prohibits us from building within construction perimeters, and it is certainly clear to him that the right flank of his coalition will be watching what he does.
I do not believe we are in a bad place.
This is one of those “wait and see” situations. How strong we are for ourselves and how honest Trump is in confronting the obstructionism of the Arabs will both factor into what happens in the months ahead.
If you would like a better understand of Israel’s legal claim to the land, please see here: