Israel: Waiting for Settlement

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WASHINGTON: A day after agreeing to talk over Madeleine Albright’s proposal that they take a "time out" from building new West Bank settlements, Israel seemed to take a U-turn Tuesday by insisting that its settlement policy remains unchanged. But this is likely to be little more than public posturing, notes TIME State Department correspondent Dean Fischer. It is likely, he says, that an understanding on the issue has been reached in private.

“Clearly, the Israelis are worried that if they don’t restart talks, they might face another major uprising,” says Fischer. “They might well have agreed quietly to not actually proceed with building settlements, because it would be very difficult for the Palestinians to agree to even these interim talks if Israel was building settlements.” Israel has also agreed to discuss other issues, such as the building of a Palestinian airport, which could help restore the process leading to the tricky "final status" negotiations envisaged by the Oslo Peace Accords. So while the war of words is bound to continue, both sides are likely to act with the restraint necessary to keep the peace process on track.