Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, has written an important op-ed in the Los Angeles Times challenging the Obama administration to get tougher with Israel or be regarded as irrelevant to the conflict's resolution by much of the rest of the world. The piece also highlights the unhelpful role of Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-California).
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The recent settlement freeze debacle shows the U.S. cannot proceed with its all-carrot, no-stick policy toward Israel if it wants to see a change in its behavior.
By Yousef Munayyer
December 22, 2010
When diplomatic sources revealed that the United States was abandoning efforts for an Israeli settlement freeze, many surely did not know whether to laugh or cry. The first two years of U.S.-Israeli relations under the Obama administration has been a debacle. For the next two, what is learned from that failure, and how it's applied, will be of utmost importance.
The failure to get a freeze is not only about the settlements — a colonial enterprise expanding on occupied Palestinian territory that a new Human Rights Watch report called a "two-tier system" that is both "separate and unequal"— but also a test of America's commitment to evenhanded mediation. So-called core issues, including the return of Palestinian refugees and the disposition of Jerusalem, are every bit as difficult as the settlements, maybe more. But obtaining the freeze was a tone-setter, one that would have shown that the U.S. could fairly enforce obligations by both parties.
This didn't happen. Instead, during the earlier, temporary 10-month freeze, the Israeli settlements were still being expanded — only new-home construction was frozen — and settlements around Jerusalem were accelerated.