Indyk: Settlement Freeze Will Turn Abbas Into Partner

Freezing settlement construction will be a met by a partner willing to engage in a diplomatic process to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, former Middle East envoy Martin Indyk said on Thursday.

Speaking at Haaretz’s peace conference in Tel Aviv, Indyk said, “You have the ability to turn the other side into a partner. Abu Mazen (Abbas) will be a partner if Israel will be ready to evacuate the settlements.”

“Abbas could become a partner tomorrow for the deal you’d like to make if there was a settlement freeze,” he said, according to excerpts published by Times of Israel. “Why not freeze the settlements? Does it affect your security?”

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued in front of a progressive audience in DC that settlements were never an obstacle to peace and in the absence of a diplomatic process Israel has no choice but to continue building in existing settlements.

“There have been no new settlements built in the past 20 years,” Netanyahu said during a Q&A session at the Center for American Progress In Washington DC. “The additions are in existing communities. People live there. Look, they’re human beings. You don’t say, well all the firstborn – throw them on the other side of the green line.”

But Indyk maintained that the settlements are the problem. “The construction in the settlements that continues daily prevents the possibility to return these territories in a future deal. It is impossible to speak about two states while controlling the ground, and thereby continuing the occupation,” he said. “What does it mean to be actors in your own fate? It means to have some generosity to the other side, even though they are the most difficult of partners to have. But you have the ability to make them partners.”

The former peace envoy also urged the U.S. to get involved to be “Israel’s second line of defense” and assist with the process if needed. “When you put your arm around someone, it gives reassurance,” he explained, “but [also allows you] to give a little nudge.”

WH Chief of Staff Denis McDonough echoed similar statements during a speech earlier this week at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in DC. “It will be critical for both sides to demonstrate – with concrete actions and policies – a genuine commitment to a two-state solution, which we believe is absolutely vital, not only for peace between Israelis and Palestinians but for the long-term security of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state at peace with its neighbors,” said McDonough. “The only real solution is a two-state solution. That means reversing current trends on the ground, where settlements and demolitions are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”

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