Two Middle East analysts told the PBS Newshour that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine will be all but impossible if Tel Aviv follows through with plans to build 3,000 new settlements in a contentious area of the West Bank.
Israel announced it plans to construct 3,000 settlements in East Jerusalem and the E1 development areas the day after the United Nations voted to grant Palestine non-member "observer" status.
The E1 area lies between Jerusalem and the large settlement of Maale Adumim, but also connects the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
Gaith al-Omari of The American Task Force on Palestine explained that the construction would destroy any hope of a two-state solution for two primary reasons:
1) If the settlements are built to the full extent of the plan, it will bisect the West Bank and "make it impossible to create a contiguous Palestinian state" through negotiations.
2) It would disconnect Jerusalem from the West Bank, "making it very difficult if not impossible to create a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, which is the Palestinian objective in negotiations."
David Makovsky of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have allowed the Palestinian Authority to collapse, and that there is still time for negotiations since ground has not been broken on the settlements.
The international community swiftly condemned Israel's announcement, citing the threat to the peace process. On Monday Israeli Prime Minister said "we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the state of Israel's map of strategic interests."
Makovksy and al-Omari said that the U.S. – which has prevent Israel from building on E1 before– is in the best position to bring both parties to the table and doing so will be a significant challenge to Barack Obama.
"If there is benign neglect in the second term of an Obama administration, this will get out of hand," Makovsky said. "We're not there yet, but if there is four years of neglect then each side takes unilateral steps and we're in a very different place. That's why it's very important to get these parties to the table right now."
But there is considerable friction between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations at the moment. Chemi Shalev of Haaretz reports that an Israeli official said that since the Obama administration refused to reaffirm George W. Bush’s position on settlements, Israel no longer feels "bound by any commitment on E-1.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer told Haaretz that the move by Israel "was something they had wanted to do for four years. It wasn’t just retribution at the UN, it was retribution at the U.S. as well."
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