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Obama Is Right About The Settlements

Barbara: So, when do I get out of here?
Sandy: As soon as Mr. Stone pays the ransom.
Barbara: What's the problem? What is the ransom?
Sandy: Well, we asked for $500,000.
Barbara: That should be no problem.
Sandy: He wouldn't pay.
Barbara: He wouldn't pay?
Sandy: Then we asked him for $50,000.
Barbara: Yeah?
Sandy: He still wouldn't pay. So now we're lowering our price to $10,000.
Barbara: Do I understand this correctly? I'm being marked down?

- Ruthless People
In the film, a couple who have been stolen from by a ruthless businessman kidnap his wife for ransom, only to discover that he really doesn't care about her.

Israel's 'land for peace' model has been similar; they took over the West Bank and Gaza in the hopes that the Palestinian people would be willing to trade for them - much as traditional nation-states trade for territory. And then they discovered that they were playing checkers and the Palestinians were playing whist, and that their moves were essentially valueless.

And every year, as they built more town into the Occupied Territories, they thought they were sending a message..."No ransom? We'll send you a finger at a time!" But the Palestinian leadership didn't want it's land back, to devolve into a normal nation they'd have to lead; they want to keep leading a worldwide movement and if all the Palestinian people have to die to make that happen - well.

This doesn't make the Israelis right - at all - for continuing to make it clear that they will keep a little more of the West Bank every year.

The reality is that continued encroachment - one house at a time - is the stupidest thing the Israelis can do. The settlements are hard to defend, they undermine Israel's moral position as desiring a two-state solution, and the empower the worst hardliners in Israeli politics.

Obama is absolutely right when he said he "wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions," as Secretary Clinton explained this week.

And Netanyahu is saying he won't.
Mr. Netanyahu is trying to find a middle ground. On Monday, he told lawmakers from his Likud Party that Israel would have to destroy 26 illegal outposts in the West Bank in order to win U.S. support for tough action against Iran. After his return from meeting with Mr. Obama in Washington last week, Mr. Netanyahu ordered a few structures built by teenage settlers on private Palestinian land in the West Bank razed. But none of them were among the 26, and settlers quickly started rebuilding some of them.

Meanwhile lawmakers from Mr. Netanyahu's party responded coldly to his proposal. "The message from the party was clear: We were not chosen by voters to evacuate Jews from their property," a Likud lawmaker said after a party meeting Monday.
Likud and the Israeli leadership would be wise to reconsider - not only because it is most likely the price of continued US support, but because it is in fact the best strategic position for Israel to take today. Building settlements is financially and politically very expensive, and those costs are ones that Israel really can't carry any more.

This isn't a new position for me. But for the first time, a sitting President is taking that position publicly. Israel - and Israel's other friends - should listen.

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