IN SEPTEMBER, President Obama signed a new 10-year agreement with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committing a total of $38 billion in military assistance.
President Obama noted that this—the most significant support package ever offered to Israel—demonstrated his unparalleled commitment to that state’s security. Shortly thereafter, Obama, speaking before the U.N., cautioned Israel that it “cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” The two messages combined made the point that the U.S. can help to protect Israel from external foes, but if Israel wants to be protected from internal challenges, it must change its behavior vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
Just a few weeks later, Netanyahu announced that he was building new settlement units in colonies deep in the West Bank and maintaining ongoing plans to expand settlements in other sensitive areas of the occupied lands—in Arab areas of Jerusalem, in the heart of Hebron, and around Bethlehem.
These are clear provocations and together point to Israel’s intention to maintain its control over the West Bank, making impossible the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
The Obama administration reacted harshly to the Israeli move. A White House spokesperson noted that every U.S. administration since 1967 has opposed settlements in the occupied lands, the expansion of which will only further frustrate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The White House also accused Netanyahu of violating his commitment to the U.S. that he would refrain from any further settlement expansion. The State Department “strongly condemned” the Israeli plan, referring to the expansion as yet “another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation.”