Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Obama the Humble declares there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."

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An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone -- Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."

What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them -- not even (BEG ITAL)within(END ITAL) the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns -- even before negotiations.

To what end? Over the last decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements -- and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.

That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why turn towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?

This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the last decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004 -- and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.

Yet the Obama State Department has repeatedly refused to endorse these agreements or even say it will honor them. This from a president who piously insists that all parties to the conflict honor previous obligations.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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