The Smoke and Mirrors of Israel's Settlement Policy
Written for the Presbyterian Church (USA)
by Corinne Whitlatch, Director of Churches for Middle East Peace
November 1999

Meeting in Oslo on November 2 with Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat,  President Clinton pledged to do whatever he could to help them reach a final agreement in 2000.  He offered a Camp-David style summit meeting and more trips to the region by his chief Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross.  This is not sufficient; meaningful leadership on the part of the United States is necessary.

Behind Mr. Clinton's  declaration that the peace process is now "revitalized" lies the unspoken knowledge of its ill health.  Although scratched from his speech at Oslo,  Mr. Arafat had planned to use the word "cancer" in reference to Israeli settlements.  Even though Mr. Clinton announced that "the two sides agreed to refrain from ....actions that could create difficulties for the other side," Mr. Barak rejected Mr. Arafat's request that Israel stop construction in the settlements during the talks.

WRITE: to President Clinton and send a copy to Dennis Ross.  Write a letter-to-the-editor to your newspaper making reference to an editorial or opinion piece. Make these points in your communications:

- The hope and logic of the "Land for Peace" formula for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations dissolves with Mr. Barak's promise to the Israeli settlers that most of the settlements will be preserved.  Is peace possible if Israel fails to withdraw sufficiently from Palestinian land?  Urge the President to hold onto the goal of  "a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation" from the Declaration of Principles signed in 1993

- The continued building of settlements by Israel should be vigorously opposed by the United States and stopped.  By not doing so, the Clinton Administration  betrays the very peace process it sponsors.  The widely publicized evacuation of 12 hilltop settlements does not obscure the fact that Prime Minister Barak's government has approved over 2500 new housing units, continues the confiscation of Palestinian land and is building more roads for settlers.

- Not only the hilltop settlements constructed in the final days of the Netanyahu administration are illegal, all the settlements are illegal.  U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions confirm the 1949 Geneva Convention's prohibition of Israeli settlement activities on any part of the occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem.  No country - including the United States - has recognized the legality of a single Israeli settlement.

President William Clinton    Ambassador Dennis Ross
The White House      Middle East Peace Process Coordinator
Washington, DC 20500     U.S. Department of State