(JTA) — Freezing construction in Israeli settlements would make Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a partner for peace “tomorrow,” former US special envoy Martin Indyk said.
Indyk, who acted as broker in several peace initiatives between Israel and the Palestinians, most recently in 2014, spoke Thursday in Tel Aviv at a conference sponsored by the Haaretz daily on the prospect of reaching a peace agreement.
Abbas “could become a partner tomorrow for the deal you’d like to make if there was a settlement freeze,” he said, adding, “Why not freeze the settlements? Does it affect your security?”
Indyk added that he believed settlements were one of the major issues preventing peace, contrary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that the main obstacles were Palestinian incitement and Arab refusal to countenance a Jewish state.
Netanyahu also routinely notes that Arab rejectionism predates settlement, and that Palestinians have turned down deals that would have involved uprooting some settlements.
“I can tell you, from personal experience, they [the settlements] are the problem,” Indyk said.
Indyk said he believes US involvement in the peace process, which allows it to be “Israel’s second line of defense,” is essential. “When you put your arm around someone, it gives reassurance,” he said, but it also allows you “to give a little nudge.”