In This Review

Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies 2000-2010
Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies 2000-2010
By Breaking the Silence
431 pp, Breaking the Silence, 2010
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The Settlers: And the Struggle Over the Meaning of Zionism
The Settlers: And the Struggle Over the Meaning of Zionism
By Gadi Taub
240 pp, Yale University Press, 2010
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On taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama put Israeli settlements at the center of U.S. policy in the Middle East. In Washington's view, a complete construction freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem became not only desirable but also a prerequisite to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Previous U.S. administrations of both parties had never taken such a stance, and in fact, there had been years of negotiations (not least at Camp David in 2000 and after the Annapolis meeting in 2007) while Israeli settlement activity continued. But the Obama administration stuck to its demand, and when Israel refused to freeze construction, 2009 and much of 2010 went by without negotiations. This only changed in November 2010, when the White House abandoned the entire approach and began to search for a new one.

This single-minded focus on a construction freeze was clearly a mistake in the sense that it failed: the Israeli government did not agree to a freeze in East Jerusalem. Nor could any earlier Israeli governments have accepted such a demand, even if they, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had been open to partial or time-limited freezes in the West Bank. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Foreign

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  • ELLIOTT ABRAMS is Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser.
  • More By Elliott Abrams