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Our position: Secretary Rice was right to call Israel on adding its footprint to disputed land

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial, 17.06.08

If the Bush administration is to have any hope of succeeding in its belated push for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, the United States must be seen as an honest broker. That's why it was important for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to criticize Israel this week for its plans to add hundreds of new homes to land claimed by the Palestinians.
Israel's first obligation under the road map, the 2003 peace plan co-sponsored by the United States, is to stop building settlements on disputed land. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called settlement construction "the biggest obstacle" to a peace deal.
Yet Israel has continued to approve new settlements since peace talks restarted late last year. Last week Israel's Interior Ministry gave the go-ahead for 1,300 new homes in East Jerusalem.
Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and doesn't consider building homes there to be adding to settlements. Palestinians still envision East Jerusalem as the capital of their independent state.
When Israel adds to its footprint on Palestinian-claimed land, it also undermines Mr. Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, which prefers terrorism to talking with Israel.
Mr. Abbas' Palestinian Authority is obligated under the road map to crack down on terrorism against Israel. The Bush administration will have more leverage enforcing this critical condition if it continues to press Israel to stop expanding settlements.