Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Israel hasn't approved new settlement construction since Obama's March visit

Settlement approvals have been halted, but construction
on the ground continues.

Peace Now reports an interesting and positive fact today: since President Obama's visit to Israel in March, Israel has not announced any new settlement construction. While previously approved construction continues unabated in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, this new restraint may be indicative of Israeli support for Secretary of State John Kerry's recent push to initiate a new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Peace Now does caution that construction on the ground continues at the same pace as prior to Obama's visit and the Israeli parliamentary elections in January due to a "ramping up" of approvals prior to the election.

This news, coupled with the recent announcement by the Arab League that they'd accept land swaps as part of the Arab Peace Initiative, indicate that background work is being done, most likely by Kerry and U.S. State Department Staff, to set the groundwork for new direct negotiations. China's apparent interest in becoming more involved in peace negotiations may be providing the impulse for the Obama administration and Secretary Kerry to get both Israel and the Palestinians, as well as other regional and international stakeholders, to agree to a U.S.-led framework for new negotiations. It's unlikely U.S. diplomats and negotiators are keen on China asserting a greater role in the peace process.

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