Israel unwilling to restrain itself

The Sun editorializes ("Best of Enemies" April 30) that the Fatah-Hamas decision to work together may doom peace-keeping efforts undertaken by the U.S. But the matter of recently renewed Jerusalem settlements by Israel and the U.S. response must not be overlooked.

Israel, to the embarrassment of President Obama, has initiated new settlement activity even in Jerusalem. This is an embarrassment to our president because Fatah had agreed to negotiate a "final" peace on condition that there be no new settlement activity, including in Jerusalem. Fatah agreed to negotiate with this condition on the table where President as Obama put it. Fatah has agreed to all the preconditions the U.S. had set.

Israel would not agree to stop settlement activity in Jerusalem and in fact began them anew.

President Obama responded to the new settlement activity by abandoning his own no-new-settlements requirement. Instead, President Obama is now calling upon Israel merely to show "restraint" with its new settlement activity.

The problem is not the failure of Fatah to negotiate. The problem is the Israeli unwillingness to restrain itself and instead to take ever more land, even at the risk of losing a (last?) chance to negotiate with Fatah. Renewing settlements in Jerusalem may mean the door to negotiations only with Fatah has closed, as Fatah and Hamas have now reached an Egypt-brokered accommodation.

As Egypt's energetic diplomacy shows, the Arab Spring is changing the arithmetic of Middle East diplomacy for everyone. The interim government in Egypt shows more agility and influence than the U.S., which, probably for U.S. internal political realities, continues to veto UN resolutions and even changes America's own announced statement of preconditions after one party had accepted them.

We, the U.S., must forthrightly, clearly and consistently support the rights of self-determination of the Palestinian people. If we continue to falter in this we may find ourselves pushed entirely to one side, as Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states reassert their own desire and responsibility, to find an equitable solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Richard B Cook, Cockeysville

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