Various links on Israel/Palestine

Here is a collection of links on Israel/Palestine accumulated in recent days, as there was widespread speculation that a prisoner exchange between Hamas (for up to 450 people, including Hamas MPs) and Israel (for Gilad Shalit) would take place, opening the way for an easing of the blockade and truce. This now looks less certain to happen, especially as there is news that the inter-Palestinian dialogue has been postponed to 25 July, rather than a 7 July deadline aired by Egypt earlier this week. Do check especially, in the context of Marc Lynch's recent blog posts arguing that Obama's stance on settlement expansion is making progress, the evidence that Israel is doing its old tactic of temporarily dismantling "rogue settlements" (aren't they all rogue) only to have them rebuilt a few hours later.

Bottom line: yes, some checkpoints have been eased and the PA is assuming more security control in the West Bank. But should that really be the endgame? Hasn't enough time been wasted on such small steps in the past 20 years of peace processing? And the bottom link - suggesting the US and Israel may cut a deal on settlement expansion - simply highlights how wrong-headed this focus on expansion, rather than existence of settlements has been for the Obama administration. Well, this gives me no pleasure, but I never expected much from them anyway.

For some interesting background to Bush-era dealmaking (behind the Palestinians' back) on the settlements issue, do read the WSJ op-ed below -- it's by Elliott Abrams.