CMEP Bulletin: Negotiations and Settlements Move Forward
Although direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began in the region this week, settlement announcements received all of the attention. On Sunday, Israel’s housing minister from the pro-settlement Jewish Home party approved plans for 1,200 new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But while the announcement has caused uproar, don’t expect it to scuttle the negotiations just yet.
After the announcement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that it was “to some degree expected.” Secretary Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss the settlement issue and said that Netanyahu had been “completely upfront with me and with President Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would take place in places that will not affect the peace map.”
Why the provocation? Daniel Seidemann tells the Washington Post, “I think that this is his opening up the settlement floodgates to placate his right flank, and either being indifferent or miscalculating the effect that this will have on the Palestinians.” And while the announcement seems to have faded some of the cautious optimism some have displayed in recent weeks, Seidemann says, “There is such a clarity over the consequences of the Kerry initiative failing that there is still a possibility of salvaging the talks. But that is not going to be done on the cheap, it’s not going to be finessed.”
The New York Times editorial board writes of the announcement, “This balancing act may have made sense in the narrow world of the Knesset. But, in the broader world beyond Israeli domestic politics, giving the green light to more settlement construction in contested territory is not just untimely but a fresh cause for pessimism about the prospects for successful peace negotiations.”
One Wednesday, after the announcement of new settlement construction, the Israeli government released 26 Palestinian prisoners. That evening, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Jerusalem and reportedly discussed “final status issues.” Details on the talks are being kept quiet for now but the parties will continue to meet in coming weeks in Jerusalem and Jericho.