Overheated rhetoric on Israeli settlements

...Diplomats were most concerned by Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to allow planning and zoning — but not yet construction — in a four-mile strip of territory known as E-1 that lies between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement with a population of more than 40,000. Palestinians claim that Israeli annexation of the land would cut off their would-be capital in East Jerusalem from the West Bank and block a key north-south route between West Bank towns. Israel wants the land for similar reasons, to prevent Ma’ale Adumim — which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal — from being isolated. Both sides insist that the other can make do with a road corridor.

This is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, not by fiat. But Mr. Netanyahu’s zoning approval is hardly the “almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described.

The exaggerated rhetoric is offensive at a time when the Security Council is refusing to take action to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians — including many Palestinians — by the Syrian regime. But it is also harmful, because it puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a “freeze” on the construction a condition for beginning peace talks. Mr. Abbas had hinted that he would finally drop that demand, which has prevented negotiations for most of the past four years, after the General Assembly’s statehood vote. If Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press Mr. Abbas to stop using settlements as an excuse for intransigence — and cool their own overheated rhetoric.

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