JERUSALEM - The Israeli government said Sunday that it had approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in West Bank settlements after a couple and three of their children were stabbed to death in their home in a Jewish settlement Friday night...
In a response to the slayings, the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said a group of senior ministers had approved "measured construction" of up to 500 housing units in several large Israeli settlements in the West Bank: Maa'leh Adumim, Ariel, the Etzion settlement bloc and Kiryat Sefer...
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said the decision to build had been taken with "full transparency with the Americans," suggesting that Washington had been notified. Regev emphasized that the new construction would be in large settlements that he said were expected to remain part of Israel in any future peace accord and that the Israeli government saw "no contradiction" between the plan and an eventual agreement on a Palestinian state.
The Netanyahu government is said to have taken an interest in this report by a team of researchers led by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and it shows. Makovsky has put forth a series of proposals for land-swaps that would cede Israeli territory to a future Palestinian state in exchange for territory where 70-80% of Israeli settlers in the West Bank live. In Makovsky's formulation, these are "bloc settlements," while the settlements that would have to be dismantled to create contiguous borders for a Palestinian state are "non-bloc" settlements.
In the wake of a horrific murder of a couple and three small children in a non-bloc settlement, the Israelis could hardly be blamed for reflexively expanding such outposts. Instead, all of the proposed construction is in the bloc settlements. Even now, the Israelis are avoiding acts that would be counterproductive to a peace deal that seems as remote as it ever has.
So does the Obama Administration's State Department acknowledge the goodwill that Israel is showing? Of course not:
In Washington, the State Department said it was "deeply concerned" by the continuing Israeli actions on West Bank settlements. Mark Toner, the department spokesman, called the continued Israeli settlements "illegitimate" and said they "run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations" between Israelis and Palestinians.
WINEP's Robert Satloff points out that "there has been less peace diplomacy between Arabs and Israelis in the current administration than during any presidency since Lyndon Johnson." Satloff argues that a lot of this is the Obama administration's fault -- but it doesn't ever seem to occur to administration officials that it could be anyone's fault but Israel's.
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