Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy
George Mitchell, say they might propose immediate talks on setting Israel's
border along the West Bank. The move comes in light of Israel's opposition to a
freeze on settlement construction and would determine which settlements will
remain in Israel in a final deal that would see the emergence of a Palestinian
state. The American proposal was raised in recent weeks following Israeli
suggestions that there is no reason to cease construction in the large
settlement blocs. Such construction would accommodate natural growth. The
Israelis say that since those blocs will remain in Israel under a final-status
agreement, there is no point in preventing construction.
The Israeli position was mainly directed at the blocs of Gush Etzion, Alfei
Menashe, Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and certain areas adjoining Jerusalem. The
American officials countered by suggesting that they initiate immediate
negotiations on the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. This,
the Americans insisted, would make it easier for everyone to decide where
settlement construction could take place.
A fine, sensible suggestion. Figure out which settlements will stay in Israel and allow construction in them, and which won't, and don't build in them. Of course, it's hard to see how this could be done. Jerusalem lies at the heart of the conflict, is probably unresolvable, and is of course part of the settlement equation. Leaving in place large settlements that are near the Green line will probably require land swaps, which then raises the question of what Israel will offer for Har Adar or Beitar, a matter the Israeli public won't discuss before knowing that it will result in full peace. Perhaps some of the swappped land should have Israeli Palestinians on it, in an attempt to partion according to ethnic lines? The Palestinians will never even discuss ths so long as they demand a right of return for the descendants of refugees. Which means it can't be agreed before there's a full agreement on all points.
Nice try, folks.