U.S. peace envoy: Freezing settlements would make Abbas partner ‘tomorrow’

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Freezing construction in Israeli settlements would make Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a partner for peace “tomorrow,” former U.S. special envoy Martin Indyk said.

Indyk, who acted as broker in several peace initiatives between Israel and the Palestinians, most recently in 2014, made the statement during a speech he gave Thursday in Tel Aviv at a conference sponsored by the Haaretz daily on the prospect of reach 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 stance on the matter.


“I can tell you, from personal experience, they [the settlements] are the problem,” Indyk said.

Netanyahu repeatedly has said settlements account for two percent of the territory of the West Bank. And other Israeli rightwing politicians said that the existence of settlements in the West Bank, along with Israeli military presence, enhances Israel security by preventing Palestinian terrorists from carrying out attacks from the territory.

“Israeli settlements across Judea and Samaria do not endanger our existence here, they ensure it, Reuven Rivlin, currently Israel’s president, said during a speech at the Knesset in 2012.

Indyk said he believes U.S. 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.”

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