Why do the Palestinians and now the US see that as a problem?
Settlements have already made it considerably more difficult to envisage a Palestinian state, not least because the huge apparatus of roads, military infrastructure and protected land that services them – an estimated 40 per cent of the West Bank in all – which helps to cut the occupied territory into separate cantons and often swallows up Palestinian farmland. Second, opponents of settlements argue that they have had a profoundly negative effect on the peace process, put at its most extreme by Amos Elon, the Israeli writer who died this week and in 2002 wrote: “Imagine the effect on the peace process in Northern Ireland if the British government continued moving thousands of Protestants from Scotland into Ulster and settling them, at government expense, on land confiscated from Irish Catholics…”
Inevitably that effect is magnified the more they are allowed to grow. Which is why Palestinian President Abbas, who saw President Obama yesterday, has been arguing he won’t negotiate with Israel until there is a freeze.