Dershowitz: Offer Palestinians ‘absolute’ building freeze

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Alan Dershowitz called on Israel’s government to offer an absolute settlement building freeze in exchange for a Palestinian return to peace talks.

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Writing Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Dershowitz, one of the preeminent defenders of Israel in the U.S. media, said such an offer would test the seriousness of the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to peace talks.

“Israel will stop all settlement building in the West Bank as soon as the Palestinian Authority sits down at the bargaining table, and the freeze will continue as long as the talks continue in good faith,” Dershowitz wrote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government imposed a partial 10-month freeze in 2010, but the Palestinians returned to talks only a month before it ended, refusing to continue unless the freeze was re-imposed.

Under Dershowitz’s prescription, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would roughly outline which areas of the West Bank were likely to remain in Israel, which would remain Palestinian and which would be in dispute or subject to land swaps. Israel would then build freely in areas it would keep and freeze settlement in the other areas.

Dershowitz said that he had run his proposal past a “senior Israeli official” who said that it would be difficult to impose an “absolute” freeze because of natural growth needs in settlements.

“I reminded him that Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel is prepared to make ‘painful compromises’ in the interests of peace,” Dershowitz wrote. “An absolute building freeze would be such a painful but necessary compromise. It might also encourage residents of settlements deep in the West Bank to move to areas that will remain part of Israel, especially if the freeze were accompanied by financial inducements to relocate.”

He said that Netanyahu’s new wall-to-wall coalition also meant the government would “no longer have the excuse” of a fragile coalition to avoid making such a proposal.

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