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The International Response to Settlements

Looking at the overblown rhetoric on settlements, shameful silence on Syria

Adam Chandler
January 02, 2013

With the recent chatter about Israeli settlements at a high since the announcement of the E-1 Plan, this offering by the Washington Post editorial board today is a useful resource to combat some of the hysteria:

Twenty-five years ago, Israel’s government openly aimed at building West Bank settlements that would block a Palestinian state. But that policy changed following the 1993 Oslo accords. Mr. Netanyahu’s government, like several before it, has limited building almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement. For example, the Jerusalem neighborhoods where new construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in 2008.

Overall, the vast majority of the nearly 500,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank live in areas close to Israel’s 1967 borders. Data compiled by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace show that more than 80 percent of them could be included in Israel if the country annexed just more than 4 percent of the West Bank — less than the 5 percent proposed by President Bill Clinton 12 years ago.

That’s not to say that settlements are a good thing or constitute a smart policy, but given what else is going on in the neighborhood, the international community’s fixation on this issue undermines bigger problems. The board adds this:

The exaggerated rhetoric is offensive at a time when the Security Council is refusing to take action to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians — including many Palestinians — by the Syrian regime.

According to new figures released by the United Nations earlier today, the death toll in the Syrian civil war has been amended to 60,000, a chilling surge from the already unconscionable 45,000.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.