In The Scotsman, correspondent Ben Lynfield analyzes the unity talks. This throwaway sentence was very dodgy:
The right-wing government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to the Palestinian pre-condition that it freeze settlement construction with the biggest Jewish settlement drive in years in East Jerusalem, the area Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.
Lynfield’s referring to is the expediting of housing projects already slated for eastern Jerusalem, Gush Etziyon and Maale Adumim — areas anyway expected to remain Israeli in a final peace agreement.
What’s more, the decision to speed up these already existing plans was not a response to a Palestinian request for a freeze.
Rather, it came on the heels of the PLO’s unilateral statehood push — specifically, it acceptance in UNESCO. Israel maintained a 10-month settlement freeze and still Abbas refused to negotiate, boasting to Jackson Diehl that his obstinance was tactical.
As former US envoy George Mitchell recently said:
“We negotiated that and the Israeli leaders agreed to halt new housing in the West Bank for 10 months. It was much less than what we asked for but more than anyone else had done. The Palestinians rejected it as worse than useless. They were strongly opposed to it. Then nine months on, there were negotiations for a couple of weeks that were discontinued by the Palestinians on the grounds that Israel wouldn’t continue the settlement freeze. What had been less than worthless a few months earlier became indispensable to continue negotiations.”