The Bush adminsitration is in the process of completing eight years in office during which there have been repeated attempts to create the foundation of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. No sooner had Secetary of State Rice left Israel last week, then the Olmert government began preparatory construction work on thousands of settler units in the occupied West Bank. The new settlement expansion includes 600 units to be built on confiscated Arab land in East Jerusalem and 800 in an ultra-orthodox settlement in the West Bank. The settler expansion drive on the West Bank flies in the face of American efforts to stablish a viable Palestinian state. Olmert insists “this is going on within the framework of negotiations and theneotiations will continue to progress.”
Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian Authority negotiator, does not agree with the Israel leader that such construction is in accord with the framework for peace. “Yesterday, they said they would stop building and today they say they will be building thousands of settler units on occupied Palestinijan land. This can’t go on and on. This development is changing the situation on the ground for the worse. Israel is simply not sincere about peace.”
Secretary Rice makes general comments about the peace process which she believes is proceeding according to prior agreements. “We want to be much more systematic about what is promised and what is actually carried out.” Palestinian leaders believe there will be some sort of face saving statement about the peace process when President Bush arrives in Israel next month. After all, the president will be out of office in a few months and the next president will have to handle the mess he has left. In the meantime, expect a nice comforting statement from Rice how peace is proceeding according to the Bush plan.