Settling A Debate

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THE PLANK FEBRUARY 11, 2009

Settling A Debate

Stephen Walt argues that the expansion of West Bank settlements may soon make a two-state deal impossible. Ezra Klein asks, "I'd like the Israel hawks to tell me supports what's wrong with Stephen Walt's logic." Okay, I'll bite. What's wrong is that settlements are reversible. To make peace with Egypt, Israel abandoned settlements in the Sinai peninsula, forcibly uprooting residents there. It did the same when withdrawing from Gaza recently. It was prepared to do the same in the West Bank in 2000 and 2001, though it never had to follow through because negotiations collapsed.

Clearly, the larger the settlements, the more political leverage it takes to uproot them. That's why, in addition to being a drain on Israel's economy, the settlements are highly counterproductive. But if Israel's government and population can be convinced that a real peace is attainable, then they should be able to dismantle the settlements. The settlements are an obstacle, but not the primary obstacle.

--Jonathan Chait

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