The hope for Middle East peace took a hit this week when Israel allowed a 10-month ban on new West Bank settlement construction to expire. Israel must continue to bar the politically charged construction, at least as long as this promising round of talks continues.
Although Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he was "absolutely committed to press on," Israeli officials have to be aware that lifting the ban threatens to undermine support for Abbas within the West Bank. As Abbas noted Sunday, without the ban the talks are "a waste of time."
For some time it's been clear that the ban would have to be extended if these talks are to have potential for success. Although hard-line Israelis have insisted on resuming construction, the fact is that a couple of hundred, or even a more than a thousand, new dwellings are not worth scuttling what many see as a last best hope for regional peace.
International law views the Israeli settlements inside Palestinian Territory as illegal.
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