But won't the continued expansion of settlements make an agreement more difficult to reach no matter who is in charge of negotiations?The pithy answer is No, of course it won't, in spite of the unanimity of the world media, from the antisemites to the ignorant, all agreeing that it will.
A fuller answer goes something like this.
Continued expansion of settlements might tells us that the Israelis have no intention to allow partition; or that they won't be able to; or that the Palestinians who otherwise want partition will be so discouraged they'll drop the idea and prefer more violence.
None of these assertions is particularly reasonable, and none bears factual scrutiny.
1. Israeli intentions. A majority of Israelis supports partition of this tiny little place so as to achieve peace alongside the Palestinians. I'm not going to go into the full demonstration of this (I have done so already both on this blog and in my relevant book); suffice to state that even in the incoming Knesset, which if you believe the pundits is really really right-wing, there are easily 80 MKs of 120 who are in favour of partition; the number that will go along with it were it to happen in a constructive framework is even higher. The settlements play no role in this discussion, since we all know that most of them will be disbanded, and a few of them won't. Yossie Beilin says there will be swaps of good agricultural land for settlements; Lieberman says there will be swaps of Israeli-Arab towns for settlements, but most everyone accepts the premise of partition.
Why, you'll ask, if most everyone knows the settlements will be disbanded, are a few of them still growing? Most of the growth is in the few, large ones, that won't be disbanded. As for the rest: indeed, enlarging settlements everyone knows are destined to be disbanded is idiotic. But no more so than artificially holding down the price of water for farmers in the worst drought year in memory, which is also happening, or supporting hundreds of thousands of Haredi families in which capable adults don't work because of a warped ideology. Some folks figure out how to manipulate the system for their benefit, no matter what the majority wishes. Show me a country where this isn't true.
2. Israel won't be able to disband the settlements even if a majority wishes to do so and has reached an agreement with the Palestinians. So far, this proposition has been tested two and a half times. In 1982 the settlements in the Sinai were disbanded with the support of 117 members of the Knesset. In 2005 the settlements in Gaza were disbanded with the support of a rather narrow majority in the Knesset. In 2000 Barak offered to dismantle most of the settlements, there were no significant protests in Israel, but the idea was then foiled by the Palestinians for reasons of their own. Had they not foiled it, the sovereign state of Palestine would be preparing next year to celebrate its first decade of independence and ethnic cleansing of Jews.
When people tell that soon there will be so many settlements they won't be removable, ask them how they know, if there are any facts to support their thesis, or if they're simply talking.
3. The Palestinians are so discouraged by the Israeli settlements they've given up on peace. This statement is repeated again and again, but contravenes the facts. The violence of the second intifada began only after the Israelis agreed to dismantle most settlements. Then, in 2005 Israel disbanded the settlements in Gaza, and ever since the violence has been getting worse. I suppose if one wishes still to believe the war is about settlements one can do so, but only at the price of suspending rational thought.