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The Obama administration is demanding that Israel fulfill its commitments under the road map and freeze all settlement construction, including natural growth, as well as evacuate all outposts founded since March 2001. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to evacuate outposts, but is insisting on expanding settlements in the West Bank, citing natural growth, as previous Israeli governments have done.

The settlements threaten to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the implementation of the partition solution, which is essential for preserving Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state. Defending the settlements requires Israel to operate a complex system of access roads and roadblocks, which make Palestinians' lives more difficult and inflict serious financial harm on them.

Every Israeli government since 1967 has insisted on building and developing the settlements, causing the country severe political damage. The massive resources invested in sustaining and enlarging the settlements come at the expense of other national goals, like the development of the Negev and the Galilee.

For all these reasons, the demand to freeze settlement construction is just and wise. The Obama administration is refusing to accept the natural growth excuse that Israel has made to previous American administrations. Under their protection, Israel has continually increased the number of settlers in the territories and the infrastructure meant for their use - primarily the segregated road system and the invasive route of the separation fence, which is intended to facilitate Israel's de facto annexation of part of the West Bank.

Netanyahu wants the Obama administration to continue the policy of the Bush administration, which ignored wide-scale Israeli construction in the territories, especially in East Jerusalem and its environs. One may question the wisdom of the Bush approach, but it was clearly predicated on Israeli reciprocity; Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif and several settlements in the northern West Bank, and Ehud Olmert began negotiations over a final-status agreement, in which he proposed withdrawing from nearly the entire West Bank.

Netanyahu wants to get something for nothing. He remains steadfast in his opposition to a Palestinian state, and also wants to expand the settlements. His position pits Israel against the American government - a serious and unneeded conflict that comes precisely when Israel is counting on U.S. support to ward off threats to its security and take advantage of opportunities to make peace.