Why is the Obama team stressing settlements?


Ha’aretz has a new report about the U.S.-Israeli tensions over settlements that helps shed some light on why the Obama administration seems to be demonstrating zero flexibility on the issue:

…Mitchell said the administration was particularly unhappy about the Netanyahu government’s unwillingness to recognize the principle of two states for two peoples.

Mitchell also emphasized that the U.S. does not accept the concept of "natural growth" for the settlements.

"We did not hear from the Bush administration about any of these so-called understandings with Israel on the settlements — all of which were supposedly oral understandings between different people every time," said one senior American official.

"But we’ve never heard a thing about them — they certainly weren’t formal agreements between our governments. "The Israelis want us to commit to oral understandings we have never heard about, but at the same time they are not willing to commit to written agreements their government has signed, like the road map and commitment to the two-state solution."

The disagreement over the understandings concerning the settlements produced an embarrassing encounter in London last week during a meeting between Mitchell, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and a number of Netanyahu’s advisers.

At the meeting, the Israelis claimed there was a letter between former president George W. Bush and former prime minister Ariel Sharon stating that the settlement blocs would remain in Israeli hands, so construction is permitted there. Mitchell showed the Israelis that one of the letter’s sections discusses the principle of two states for two peoples. "That is also written in the letter — do you agree to that?" he asked.

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