Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Sort of Settlement Freeze?

It's not all it's cracked up to be, but it'd still be a big move:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's willing to freeze government construction in West Bank settlements as well as all construction on government land there. In return, he needs an agreement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume direct peace talks.

According to a senior Israeli official, Abbas has not yet responded, but he has been threatening to resign if there is no diplomatic progress in the next three months.

The "government construction" thing is the qualifier -- much settlement construction comes on private land and is done by private developers. Still, the Ha'aretz article notes that Abbas needs something he can show to the Palestinian people in order to justify coming back to the table, and this might qualify. Moreover, mediators seemed surprised that Netanyahu was willing to take this step -- meaning that it might be just the sort of shakeup that the two parties need to get back down to brass tacks.

We can hope, anyway. The ball appears to be in Abbas' court -- hopefully, he'll decide to run with it instead of away from it.

UPDATE: Well darn.

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