The Truth about Settlement Growth / Sharyn Mittelman

Apr 12 2012
The current Israeli government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu has often been unfairly accused of expanding settlements at faster rate than previous Israeli governments. For example, John Lyons in the Australian recently wrote:

"...Mr Netanyahu - whose party, Likud, has recently had a drive to recruit settlers and who is overseeing a major growth of settlements..."

During a CNN interview former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defense Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak noted that this all too common perception is just wrong - construction in settlements is actually currently occuring at a slower rate compared to previous Israeli governments.

Barak notes that constuction in settlements was actually considerable higher during past periods when there were the most significant efforts to negotiate a two state peace deal - during Barak's own previous government (1999-2001) and the Olmert Government (2006-2009). This illustrates why the Palestinian claim that current construction - which is currently only within the existing boundaries of existing settlements, thus taking no new land, and at comparatively low rates - is the major barrier to peace negotiations make very little sense, either logically or in terms of historical experience.

Barak said in the interview:

"I think that most of the burden for the inability to move in the last three years happens to be on the Palestinians' shoulders, not on ours.

But I can tell you honestly, I was the prime minister 12 years ago. I negotiated a very generous proposals with previous Chairman Arafat, together with President Clinton. It put a far reaching proposals on the table that was rejected by Arafat. And he turned deliberately to terror. And that during that time, we were building four times the pace of construction that Israel executed now. I was the defense minister in Ehud Olmert's government for five years ago when he proposed an extremely generous proposal to Abu Mazen. We were building about twice the pace that we are building now.

So this government of Netanyahu is not the most aggressive in building. We are listening very carefully to the needs of our citizens of, on the one hand, and to the needs of the Palestinian future state, as well as the demands from the world. And we are not going over any hill or valley and establishing new settlements. Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this government is in power."

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