Asked about the Palestinian letter reportedly coming next week, in which Mahmoud Abbas — currently in the 88th month of his 48-month term as Palestinian president, having failed to hold the elections he promised a year ago (when he entered into still another reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group he previously promised to dismantle) — will demand that Israel stop construction in the disputed territories, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that “Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this [Netanyahu] government is in power.”
The only authorized Israeli construction is in existing settlements that will be part of Israel in any conceivable peace agreement, pursuant to the understanding reached a decade ago with the U.S. that a “settlement freeze” meant no new settlements and no expansion of the boundaries of existing ones – what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the “Google Earth Test” – not construction within established settlements. In her recent memoir, Rice confirmed both the informal understanding and Israeli compliance with it throughout the Bush administration.
Not only has the Netanyahu government adhered to that understanding; it implemented an unprecedented ten-month construction freeze, which predictably produced no Palestinian response other than a demand in the tenth month that it be continued.
Back when he was he was actually in office, Abbas rejected the offer by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert of a Palestinian state on land equivalent to 100 percent of the West Bank with a capital in Jerusalem. He is a Potemkin president, making “demands” for Israeli steps he knows are neither required nor realistic, still refusing to recognize a Jewish state, or defensible borders, or an end-of-claims agreement, still unwilling to tell his people, in Arabic, what is required for a Palestinian state.
Instead of delivering a letter, he should make his Bir Zeit speech.