Palestinians’ insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before peace talks begin is not a new proposal. It was a precondition the last time Netanyahu and Abbas attempted to get talks under way. Israel agreed to a 10-month freeze, but it was almost over by the time the two leaders finally began negotiations in September 2010. Building resumed at a vigorous pace when the construction freeze expired and the US dropped its pressure on Israel for an extension of the freeze.
Israel maintains that settlement activity has no bearing on the peace process because all territory is up for negotiation when talks resume. But the Palestinian Authority insists that the expansion of the Israeli settler population to more than 300,000 in the West Bank alone has prejudiced the borders of an eventual Palestinian state, not least of all because the evacuation of such a large population is seen as impractical. It also maintains that the construction is a violation of prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.