What Is a “Settlement Freeze”?

In the many predictions of what’s going to happen tomorrow in the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, a lot of attention is being paid to the possibility of Obama demanding a “settlement freeze”:

Settlements will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama, who supports Palestinian statehood, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is skeptical about it, meet at the White House next week. Vice President Joe Biden told Israel supporters in Washington on May 5 that settlement-construction must stop, the strongest statement on the subject so far from the administration.

The problem is the phrase “settlement freeze.” As a slogan it’s catchy, but in practice the discussion between the U.S. and the Israeli government is much more nuanced. There’s the “freeze” on new settlements (Israel doesn’t build any); there’s Israel’s commitment to remove illegal outposts (and the sub-issue of who determines what’s illegal); there’s the issue of building within existing settlements – those that are part of “settlement blocks” (which will presumably remain in Israeli hands according to the 2004 “Bush letter to Sharon”), and those that aren’t part of the blocks; there’s the issue of building only for “natural growth”; there’s, of course, the question of building in greater Jerusalem.

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What Is a “Settlement Freeze”?

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