Return of the Settlers

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JERUSALEM: The four-year moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank may be over. Israeli Army radio reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is living up to his hardline promises and is expected to allow new settlements and construction by the end of the week. Netanhayu has repeatedly promised to expand Jewish settlement in spite of stiff opposition from the Palestinian Authority, which sees more Israeli settlers as obstacles to a Palestinian state. "Netanyahu's decision to expand settlements is going to create trouble," says TIME's Jamil Hamad in Jerusalem. "The Palestinians will be more suspicious of Netanyahu's intentions. His statements in Cairo and Washington that he is committed to peace will look worthless. Furthermore, allowing more Israeli settlers will encourage radical elements in the Palestinian community. Hamas will ask, 'What kind of peace can be based on bringing Jews into the West Bank and Gaza?'" Netanyahu's decision on settlements will have its effect on the world stage as well. The Israeli move could propel Syria out of the lingering isolation which began with the Arab-Israeli peace process. "Syria will begin to take a leading role in the Arab world," Hamad says. "President Hafez Assad will be able to twist arms, making it impossible for Arabs like Jordan's King Hussein, the PLO's Arafat and even Egyptian President Mubarak to reach agreements with Israel." -->