When President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last Monday, he urged, or perhaps demanded, that Israel halt all new settlement activitiy on the West Bank. Now, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon has made the following response: “We will not follow American dictates; we will not halt construction in the settlements.”
Ya’alon explained that the government will not allow the establishment of new outposts, but also will not halt the expansion of settlements which is a result of natural growth. “There are people living here, raising their children here,” he noted. “We need to build homes for families’ residence.”
I don’t know whether this will prove to be Israel’s final word on the subject, but it should be. The government of Israel exists to promote the interests of its citizens, including those who live in settlements, not the interests of a sworn enemy committed to its destruction.
Nor is there any reason to believe that Israel can promote its interest, real or imagined, in reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians by placing restrictions on the residents of the settlements. As Ya’alon reminds us:
Even when Israel evacuated swathes of land, terrorism continued. Even when we uprooted communities, all we got in return was ‘Hamastan’.
Blowing off a U.S. President is not an easy thing for an Israeli government to do. The Netanyahu government deserves credit for doing just that, so far.