The most immediate obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is Israel's continuing settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. A rising tide of opposition to Israel's expansionist policy supports this stance. In early February, the United Nation's Human Rights Council called Israel's actions "creeping annexation," and asserted that Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention that condemns the appropriation of land in an occupied territory.
In late February, nearly two dozen European diplomats working in Jerusalem and the West Bank urged the European Union to intensify efforts to block Israeli settlement in and near Jerusalem, claiming that such construction on occupied lands is the "single biggest threat" to a Mideast peace deal. More than half a million Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Significant voices within Israel are also speaking out against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Israeli director Dror Moreh, in his Oscar-nominated film "Gatekeepers," interviews six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel's secret service and the agency responsible for the country's internal security. One says, "We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, (and) it kills me."
Early in his first term, President Barack Obama spoke out against Israel's settlement building. He needs to repeat that criticism, but with teeth. Israel receives more American foreign aid than any other country. For the sake of Israel's future and for peace in the Mideast, the president needs to say America will withhold aid unless Israel brings its settlement building to a stop.