Why A Settlement Freeze Would Have Been Better

Yes, I know you’ve read about a hundred of these in these in the last few days, but I want to put my two cents in.

When presented with three preconditions to negotiations by John Kerry and the Palestinian Authority, Israeli negotiators and Netanyahu chose to release 26 convicted prisoners, terrorists directly involved in the killing of innocents, as opposed to a settlement freeze and an agreement to negotiate the contours of a Palestinian state on the basis of adjusted pre-1967 lines. Following this act, Israel said it would build almost 1,200 homes in Jewish settlements, which by all accounts is…dumb.

Irrespective of how you feel about settlements in the West Bank, releasing convicted terrorists is the ultimate slap in the face to every Israeli citizen ever directly affected by an act of terrorism (which is probably a very large portion of the general population). It directly undermines Israel’s legitimacy as policing force for its own people, denying the them the right to see justice served.How can Israeli citizens feel safe when the men responsible for the killing of Israeli men women and children are allowed to go free “for the good of the nation.” As the child of someone who was the victim of a senseless killing, I know, at least a little bit, how the victims of these terrorists must feel. To have the little bit of solace that justice has been served to be taken away tugs at every heartstring I have. My father’s killer never saw the inside of a courtroom, he was too much of a coward to face the realities of his action and took his own life, and because of that I have never been able to feel a true sense of closure. If there is a chance that these families had that closure, then this act is good for no one.

Whatever goodwill Netanyahu and the Israeli government may have earned releasing these prisoners was lost when settlement building began. Why would, in the midst of a negotiation on territory would you stir the pot by attempting to add to your territory? From a purely objective standpoint, that’s no way to begin a negotiation. What are you trying to prove, that you have legitimacy in the region and can do what pleases you? You lost that right when you release killers of innocents.

A settlement freeze hurts nothing but the ego. It does not say that Israel lacks legitimacy in the region, rather its a sign of goodwill that, while acknowledging your current settlement as legitimate, you are staying away from insisting more land for the sake of negotiations. If Israeli officials thought they were playing to both sides with this double edged sword, then they have failed miserably and pissed off everyone. They lost an opportunity to really work with Palestinian negotiators in an effective way, and now I cannot say that I would continue negotiations if I were in the P.A.’s shoes. I shake my head at at Israeli officials for their ill-gotten political play that did nothing. Let’s hope for a better future where the ramifications of political actions are weighed.


About the Author
Gabriel Felder is a rising senior at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. He has also served multiple positions in the GWU Hillel and has largely focused on faith based dialogue on campus.