Monday, June 29, 2009

Defense Minister Barak in Washington to discuss settlements

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is set to meet with the U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Washington today to discuss Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A source of contention between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the issue of settlements has kept the two nations in a stalemate with regard to aligning policy and promoting peace in the region. Although the Obama administration has been calling for a complete freeze on illegal settlement construction, the right-wing Israeli government has yet to make such a compromise.

Barak is expected to bring to the table a proposal which will call for a temporary construction freeze of three to six months, during which time the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors will be engaged and regional dialogue can continue. Although this plan falls short of what the Obama administration had hoped for, it is the biggest compromise that the Israeli government has made yet and offers the promise of further negotiation and peace talks. Because of the unpopularity of the compromise among Israelis, as of yet no government officials have issued statements on the proposed construction halt. Additionally, this meeting comes on the heels of an announcement that Barak approved the construction of fifty new houses in the settlement of Adam to house evacuees of other West Bank settlements which are being closed down. It is unclear as of yet whether this circumstance will diminish the Defense Minister's credibility.