Israel is to Blame If Peace Talks With Palestine Become a Farce

After a three-year stalemate, Israel and Palestine are back at the negotiation table in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State John Kerry will broker the peace talks, which are set to begin Monday evening.

In an expected olive branch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to release 104 Palestinian prisoners to jump-start the peace process. Yet Netanyahu didn't extend his compromise to settlement expansion. And as long as Israel spreads further into the West Bank, these peace talks are as good as none.

The same week Netanyahu announced the prisoner release decision, he also vowed Israel would stay the course. The prime minister told his party members, "There will be no freeze, but we won’t build thousands of housing units everywhere, either."

By "thousands," Netanyahu meant that between the six to nine months he and Palestinian officials are expected to negotiate, Israel will not build more than 1,000 housing units in Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, and Gush Etzion — three major Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank.

This is a sharp decrease from last year's numbers. Peace Now, a watchdog group on settlement construction, concluded that in 2012, Israel constructed about 2,000 new housing units and had planned to build an additional 6,676.

Yet with settlements as the highest priority on the negotiation table for Palestinians, Israel's decision indicates a genuine interest in noncooperation. 

In an interview with NBC News, Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian Legislative Council member, discussed the improbability of peace if Israelis continued moving beyond the Green Line, the demarcation of the border between the Israeli and Arab territories.
"We all agree, everybody agrees, that settlements are going to kill the possibility of resolution, yet I don't understand how can we negotiate over a solution while the factor that kills the solution is going to be growing and continuing. That's the main problem." 

Israel shows no signs of fixing it. Instead, they've chosen a half-hearted commitment to a two-state solution. One senior official in Netanyahu's party tried to clarify the prime minister's stance of settlement expansion, saying, “You can’t call it a freeze, but you can describe it as a policy of restraint and tighter supervision over construction."

But Israeli "restraint" will not solve Palestine's problems. Restraint only means that Israel is trying to occupy with a conscience. Morality and the occupation cannot mix; maybe once Israel realizes that, the real peace talks will begin.