Israel is not expanding settlement areas

The Sun's editorial, "Peace is remote in the Mideast" (Dec. 28), states, among other things: "... Israel is continuing to expand settlements at a rate that will soon render the whole issue moot because eventually there won't be enough land left to create a viable Palestinian state."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the end of the freeze on construction in existing settlements does not mean an expansion of the area encompassed by those communities. New building is overwhelmingly what contractors here call "in-fill," construction on unused land or additions to existing structures inside current neighborhoods or subdivisions. Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman, said last week that construction under way now "will not in any way change the final map of peace."

After more than 40 years of building, Jewish villages and towns comprise less than 5 percent of the West Bank. The 95 percent-plus of West Bank "land left to create a viable Palestinian state" will not change appreciably. (With the addition of the Gaza Strip, there remains approximately the 97 percent-plus of the West Bank and Gaza Strip envisioned by Israeli-U.S. proposals for a two-state solution, rejected by the Palestinian Authority in 2000, 2001 and 2008.) The issue is not rendered moot by new construction in existing Jewish settlements, and can be taken up again any moment Palestinian leaders choose to, in indirect or direct negotiations with Israel.

Eric Rozenman

The writer is Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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