Several controversial provisions of the nearly decade-old Patriot Act are about to expire, and US Congress has decided to extend them.
US Congress lawmakers have agreed to extend a series of controversial surveillance and search powers, known as the Patriot Act, in force since the 9/11, 2001 attacks.
The agreement calls for the extension of key powers of the act for an additional five years, AFP reports.
Under the arrangement, the Senate and House of Representatives will hold a vote on extending the controversial powers at the core of the act before they lapse on May 27, according to several congressional aides.
The officials said the vote would be “a clean extension” to June 1, 2015, meaning it would not include new civil liberties safeguards sought by some senior Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached the accord with time running short before the provisions expire.
The measures include the use of wiretaps and tracking non-US citizens suspected of being “lone-wolf” terrorists, even if they are not affiliated to an extremist group.
It also allows law enforcement agencies to seize “any tangible thing” seen as critical evidence in an investigation, such as personal or business records.
The Patriot Act has generated a great deal of controversy since it came in force.
The American Civil Liberties Union says it undermines people’s basic rights.
US Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper urged top lawmakers in a January-28 letter to extend all three powers, and complained of frequent short-term renewals.
Video of Nakba demonstrations on May 15, 2011, in the West Bank village of Beit Ommar and nearby refugee camp of Aroub.
The New York Times was quick to spin Obama’s speech in ‘historic’ terms
“Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel” as part of a “Broad Speech Rejecting Status Quo in the Middle East” – that was the instant spin on the front of The New York Times website within minutes of the president speaking.
But while President Barack Obama laid out in a little bit more detail a US “vision” of what “peace” would look like in his much anticipated speech on US policy in the Middle East and North Africa, there was precious little new.
Moreover, the speech affirmed that the United States will not take any effective action to advance its vision of a two-state solution.
The president covered broadly the uprisings in the Arab world and the American response to them, but I will look at the sections on Palestine – not necessarily in the order of delivery, but by theme.
The 1967 lines
What the president actually said was:
We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
There is a world of difference between “the 1967 lines” and “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” It is sort of like the difference between “a true story” and a Hollywood movie “based on a true story.”
As the Palestine Papers showed, US-brokered negotiations for years were predicated on trying to reach such a result, and despite unprecedented Palestinian concessions agreeing to allow Israel to annex most of its settlements, no agreement could be reached.
Although it is true that the Obama administration previously adamantly refused to mention the term “1967 lines,” its doing so now is couched in such a vague formula that it does not contradict President George W. Bush’s April 2004 pledge on behalf of the United States to support Israel’s annexation of its West Bank settlements.
Moreover, as Palestinian Authority (PA) “chief negotiator” Saeb Erekat recently told The Electronic Intifada, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas remains fully committed to “land swaps” to allow Israel to keep its settlements even if the UN recognizes a Palestinian state “on the 1967 line.”
Shortly after Obama’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a grand-standing statement rejecting the 1967 borders as “indefensible.” He needn’t worry. There were enough loopholes in Obama’s speech to drive several large settlement blocs and perhaps even the entire Jordan Valley through.
Israel as a “Jewish state”
Obama has done it before, but once again he explicitly endorsed Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state”:
a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
It is shocking that a president who constantly boasts that he is only in the White House because of the victories of the US Civil Rights movement against vile Jim Crow racism would endorse Israel’s demand to be allowed to discriminate against Palestinians. I explained in detail why Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state” is totally incompatible with democratic principles and human rights in a 2009 article in The Nation:
If Israel has a “right to exist as a Jewish state,” then what can it legitimately do if Palestinians living under its control “violate” this right by having “too many” non-Jewish babies? Can Israel expel non-Jews, fine them, strip them of citizenship or limit the number of children they can have? It is impossible to think of a “remedy” that does not do outrageous violence to universal human rights principles.
And indeed, recognizing Israel’s “right” consigns not only Palestinian refugees to the trash heap, but Israel’s own 1.4 million Palestinian citizens whom leading Israeli politicians like Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman view as a fifth column and hope to expel or denationalize.
Obama made a nod to this kind of racism when he warned that “The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River.” This was a coded reference to what Israelis openly term the “demographic threat” to a Jewish majority posed by the reality that Palestinians are once again becoming the majority population throughout historic Palestine. This is due to natural growth of Palestinians, a lower Israeli Jewish birthrate and the dearth of Jews around the world who wish to settle in historic Palestine.
In my 2009 article, I explained in American terms why this is unacceptable and racist:
What if we apply Israel’s claim to the United States? Because of the rapid growth of the Latino population in the past decade, Texas and California no longer have white majorities. Could either state declare that it has “a right to exist as a white-majority state” and take steps to limit the rights of non-whites? Could the United States declare itself officially a Christian nation and force Jews, Muslims or Hindus to pledge allegiance to a flag that bears a cross? While such measures may appeal to a tiny number of extremists, they would be unthinkable to anyone upholding twenty-first-century constitutional principles.
Yet this is precisely the nightmare vision Obama is endorsing for Israel which has become increasingly bold in its passage of new laws discriminating against non-Jews, and is in the grip of state-funded rabbis calling for Jews to shun and boycott non-Jews and refuse to rent or sell homes to them.
The president said:
the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
On its face this might appear to be a softening of Obama’s long-standing rejectionism of any dealings with Hamas in that he’s not calling for an immediate aid cut-off to the Palestinian Authority. He appears to be giving the Palestinians time. But it still looks certain that the ultimate US response will depend on whether Hamas submits – as Fatah has done – to Quartet conditions.
Always more sensitive to Israelis
If this was a speech intended to woo an Arab audience, then it is notable that Obama displayed the typical bias characteristic of American officials. He was very graphic and vivid about Israeli suffering and victimhood, while vague and evasive about the vastly greater terror Palestinians have experienced under Israeli rule. Reflecting on decades of conflict, Obama said:
For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.
Aside from its visceral language, this formulation feeds the myth that hostility to Israel is primarily a result of Arabs being “taught to hate,” when in fact if Arabs do hate Israel it is a result of Israeli actions. Israel teaches Arabs to hate Israel. Contrast the president’s words on the other side:
For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.
That’s it? Toward the end of the speech, the president did mention “the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas” and “a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza” – but this was only to offer an example of a Palestinian who decided to let bygones be bygones despite Israel’s ongoing actions.
The president would never dream of actually supporting efforts to hold Israel accountable. Indeed, he vowed:
Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.
Clearly the president cannot risk offering sympathy to Palestinians proportionate to their actual suffering. As he has learned before, this would risk offending the Israel lobby which demands that American politicians always portray Israel as the principal victim. Recall that during the 2008 campaign Obama once accidentally let slip that “Nobody is suffering more than Palestinians” but later “clarified” that he meant they were suffering at the hands of their own leaders, not Israel.
Obama vows to continue its inaction and condemns Palestinians taking action
Putting the merits of Obama’s “vision” aside, what will the president actually do to advance it? Before he laid out the details, Obama said:
Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them – not by the United States; not by anybody else.
What this means in translation is that the United States will not put any pressure on Israel to change its behavior – such as forcing it to stop building settlements. But Obama will continue to support lop-sided “negotiations” between local superpower Israel and a Palestinian Authority that is actually dependent on Israel for its mere survival (as Israel’s recent withholding of PA tax funds shows). No peace, let along a just one, can emerge from such “negotiations.”
Palestinians must sit on their hands
During his speech, the president also warned:
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
The reference to “delegitimization” appears to be a coded condemnation of the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a growing nonviolent campaign to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian human rights. That’s out.
The bid to get Palestine recognized as a state is a desperate effort by the PA to seek international support in the face of intransigent US bias toward Israel. That’s out too.
Next the president tells Palestinians to reject “terror.” Ok, fair enough. And indeed elsewhere in his speech Obama was fulsome in his praise for “nonviolence.”
But what happened when tens of thousands of Palestinians peacefully marched for their human rights, including their right to return to Palestine even if they are not Jewish, last Sunday on Nakba Day? Israel gunned down more than a dozen people and the White House endorsed its actions.
So as far as Obama is concerned Palestinians have no options but to turn to negotiations that have proven utterly fruitless as even he acknowledged.
Soon after Obama was elected in 2008, I predicted that his tenure – despite high expectations everywhere else – would not produce any progress toward the mythical “two-state solution.” I see no reason to change that assessment.
But I concluded then, as I do now, that “This does not however mean that the situation will remain static or that those pursuing a just peace have no recourse for action.”
Indeed as recent months have shown throughout the region, the fates of nations are in the hands of their own citizens, not those of the American president.
Activists in the Twin Cities today announced at a press conference that they were releasing a recently-found document that was left behind by federal agents when they raided Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy’s Minneapolis home on 24 September 2010.
The FBI confirmed to the Associated Press that the documents appear to be authentic and were accidentally left behind during the raid.
FBI agents, who raided the home of Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy, took with them thousands of pages of documents and books, along with computers, cell phones and a passport. By mistake, they also left something behind; the operation plans for the raid, “Interview questions” for anti-war and international solidarity activists, duplicate evidence collection forms, etc. The file of secret FBI documents was accidently mixed in with Gawboy’s files, and was found in a filing cabinet on April 30. We are now releasing them to the public.
The press conference was held at the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, which was raided the same day as the Kelly-Gawboy home. It is believed that the key used to raid the office was one that had belonged to a woman known as Karen Sullivan, now confirmed to be an undercover agent, and whose word appears to be the basis for the investigation.
The investigation has so far targeted 23 activists — several homes in the Twin Cities and Chicago were raided on 24 September 2010 and 14 activists were subpoenaed that month. After they refused to testify before a grand jury, nine more activists — all of them active in the Palestinian community or involved in Palestine solidarity work — in Chicago were subpoenaed, including myself (I believe I have been subpoenaed because of my solidarity organizing in Chicago, not because of my work with The Electronic Intifada). All 23 of us have refused to testify before the grand jury.
Last week we reported that bank accounts of one of the targeted activists, Palestinian community organizer Hatem Abudayyeh, and his wife were frozen but restored after a flood of phone calls were made to protest the move.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression statement adds:
Taken as a whole, the secret FBI file shows the willful disregard for the rights of anti-war and international solidarity activists – particularly the first amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. The documents make it clear that legal activity in solidarity with the peoples of Colombia and Palestine is being targeted. The documents use McCarthy-era language, which gives one the feel that the 1950s red scare has returned. And finally, the documents show the chilling plans for the armed raid that took place at the home of Kelly and Gawboy on September 24, 2010.
The documents show that public advocacy for the people of Colombia was the genesis of the FBI investigation. The ‘Operations Order’ for the FBI SWAT Team states “The captioned case was initially predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.”
While we have no way of knowing if it was speaking tours or educational events on Colombia that got them so riled up, there is something we can state with certainty: There is nothing illegal about traveling to Colombia, or visiting the areas where the FARC is in charge. This is something that journalists, including U.S. journalists, do, and we have yet to hear of their doors being broken down. Upon returning from Colombia, Aby and Sundin spoke at many public events about their experiences.
The FBI interview questions for Meredith Aby ask “1) Have you ever met Lilia [sic] Obando? 2) Where? 3) When? 4) Why?” Liliana Obando is a well-known Colombian trade unionist who spoke in the Twin Cities at an event organized by the Anti-War Committee. She received a visa to travel in the U.S. from the U.S. government.
In addition to focusing on associational information and travel to Palestine and Colombia, the interview questions focus on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization:
The FBI documents include 57 interview questions about Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the organization that some of those who were raided or subpoenaed to the Grand Jury are members of. The questions include; “Are you a member?” “How many members are there?” “Who are the leaders?” And on and on and on. It is like pages of the calendar have been turned back 60 years.
The documents also show the amount of force used to raid the anti-war and social justice activists’ home. The committee says in the statement:
In the documents, the “Operations order” for FBI SWAT for “Operation Principal Parts” the raid on the Kelly/Gawboy home has the word “DANGEROUS” in underlined bold type at the top of the page. FBI agents were told to bring assault rifles, machine guns and two extra clips of ammunition for each of their side arms. Two paramedics were to stand by in the event of causalities. Other documents include photos of Kelly and Gawboy, as well as pictures of stairs leading to their front door and the front door itself.
What transpired on September 24 was this. Gawboy was awoken by the FBI pounding on the door. When she stated she wanted to see the search warrant, agents used a battering ram on the door, breaking the hardware and shattering a fish tank in the process. Gawboy was taken down the front steps in her nightgown while the FBI swat team entered her home.
The justification for this armed home invasion is given in the “Operations plan” – “Kelly is believed to be the owner of an unknown number of firearms which may be at his residence…”
Kelly, who learned to shoot while in Boy Scouts, owns guns – just like a lot of Minnesotans. The “Operation Plan” also claims that Kelly “offered to provide weapons training” – an outright lie that originated with the police infiltrator “Karen Sullivan” or a fiction writer at the FBI office.
Those of us who have been ensared in this fishing expedition have claimed from the beginning that activists are being targeted for organizing in opposition to US foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, and because of first-amendment activity like travel and association. The interview questions confirm that this is the focus.
Imagine being asked any of the following questions — all listed in the document — knowing that if you are not able to answer them completely, you could be vultnerable to perjury or contempt-type charges (emphasis mine):
“Have you, anyone from FRSO [Freedom Road Socialist Organization], or anyone you know, ever traveled to South America?”
“Have you, anyone else from FRSO, or anyone you know, ever traveled to the Middle East? Gaza? West Bank? Israel?”
And some questions are just incredible, like:
“Have you ever taken steps to overthrow the United States government?”
“What is your husband’s immigration status?”
“What do you think of terrorist groups? Do you support them?”
“Have you ever recruited fighters to the FRSO?”
As the Committee to Stop FBI Repression concluded in its statement today:
The bottom line is this: there can be no justification for the raid in the first place, and still less for it to be done by agents smashing doors and wielding machine guns. This is a recipe for people getting hurt or killed.
The events of September 24 and the ongoing grand jury are not about “material support of terrorism,” as any normal person would understand it. What is happening is this: anti-war and international solidarity activists are being targeted for practicing our rights to speak out and organize. We have done nothing wrong. Our activism is making this world a better place.
The documents left behind by federal agents can be downloaded from stopfbi.net.
The new supremo of the Arab League kept his promise, the first he was to make, and has chopped off the head of Libyan television, so to speak, by blocking any further Libyan government satellite television broadcast by the middle east and Africa’s most watched network, Arabsat.
By the time I arrived home for lunch on Tuesday, May 17 and my thrice daily dose of Al Jammahariya TV all five Libyan government satellite channels had gone dark.
No more splinted, bandaged and sewn back together Libyan children clutching Muammar Gaddafi’s picture with one cast encased arm while the other is raised in that signature Libyan clenched fist salute.
No more images of blood splattered bed sheets in pediatric wards where victims of previous bombings were shredded by flying glass blown in on them from NATO bombs next door.
No more scenes of Muammar Gaddafi driving through the smoke shrouded streets of Tripoli standing in the open sunroof of a SUV, almost daring NATO to do its worst.
And no more press conferences with Libyan Imams standing side by side with their Christian brethren, raging at the world for allowing the NATO crusaders to slaughter men of peace who had gathered to try and end the bloodshed of Libyan against Libyan.
I cant say I was surprised when the ax dropped for I had been wondering for months now that those that only know “rule by force” in the Arab world didn’t realize how much damage they were inflicting on themselves by allowing their subjects to see what the USA and NATO’s wrath had wrought on a long peaceful Arab people in North Africa.
Arab Awakening? No, the revolution in the third world is Arabsat via satellite dishes popping up like mushrooms all over Africa, south Asia and the middle east. With hundreds of channels to choose from including the likes of Al Manar of Hezbollah, Al Jammahariya from Libya, and of course, the unchallenged elephant on the airwaves, Al Jazeera, broadcasting from the home of an absolute monarch, the Emir of Qatar.
Twitter, Facebook and the internet in general has little meaning to those Egyptians from the poorest of the most desperately poor neighborhoods of Cairo who were the first to pour into Tahir Square in protest against the hated Mubarak regime. When one cannot afford to buy your daily bread or sugar for your morning tea life quickly becomes unendurable and those of enough means to own a laptop find fertile ground for their Facebook based protests. And even if the internet and cell phone service is cut, somewhere in even the most squalid slums and shantytowns there will be a satellite dish and a television screen showing the exploding anger of those like themselves who have nothing left to lose.
Arab street or Arab sheep? Satellite news channels can inform or disinform. One must only see how the Libyan rebels hit the big time to see how dangerous the propaganda arms of hereditary rulers can be, especially when their message falls on ears only to eager for change, any change, no matter the disastrous consequences for themselves and their neighbors.
Still, there is something about seeing with ones own eyes and hearing with ones own ears that allows one to try to best judge what is and what isn’t true. After a lifetime of strictly controlled propaganda, we finally have a choice, maybe limited, but a choice of what propaganda we would try and digest. An important part of that choice is gone now that Libyan TV is off the satellite airwaves.
So farewell to the battle cries of the foes of the NATO crusaders, the voice of Libya for LIbyans one might say, axed by the new Prince of the Arab League. I for one, will miss you.
Thomas C. Mountain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Like many others, I was dismayed to learn of the two imams wearing traditional Muslim garb who were forcibly removed from an airplane that was to carry them to a conference on Islamophobia. The passengers who were removed from a Delta/ASA flight in Memphis, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, apparently frightened other passengers and upset one of the pilots, who refused to fly with them on board. Not everybody was dismayed, however. The Delta/ASA pilot and the frightened passengers have received support from numerous voices among the American commentariat.
The situation was a clear-cut case of ethnic profiling. On this everybody should agree. Some of those who support the pilot’s action want to disclaim their support of profiling, but such a desire is dishonest. People need to accept the realities of the positions they express, even if those positions attach to descriptors that have negative connotations. If you support the pilot, you are supporting an instance of ethnic profiling. Either accept that fact or develop a different opinion.
I have been reading commentaries about the case with much interest. One argument in particular keeps arising: the notion that Rahman and Zaghloul deserve what happened to them because they dressed like terrorists. The reasoning goes like this: Muslims commit terrorism; Muslims look a certain way; a certain look thus portends the possibility of terrorism. In short, those who appear to be Muslim are worthy of extra scrutiny because they are more likely to be terrorists than other people.
I want to leave aside the fact that the belief that Muslims are more likely than others to commit terrorism is a myth with no basis in factual evidence. I also do not have the space to illustrate that there are thousands of variations of traditional Muslim dress. Even Rahman and Zaghloul wore different types of clothing on the day they were profiled.
I’d like instead to focus on this notion of “dressing like a terrorist,” a phrase that has the peculiar intimation of a fashion statement. There is no quantifiable evidence to show that dress is a predictor of any sort of behavior, especially the behavior of terrorism. What we’re dealing with in the Rahman and Zaghloul case is an overexerted imagination that associates political violence with what I call the terrorist costume.
The terrorist costume is a simulated reality, circulated in Hollywood and countless news broadcasts, that evokes a causal relation between appearance and action. The terrorist costume is familiar to nearly all Americans: a thick beard, an ashen robe, brown skin, sandals holding dirty feet, and some sort of headgear, usually a Sikh-style turban. The terrorist wearing this costume often sports a Qu’ran, so the audience can be certain that he is a Muslim.
Yet the acts of terrorism that have been committed by Muslims involved perpetrators, like Mohamed Atta, who didn’t at all resemble the image of the Hollywood terrorist. Rahman and Zaghloul unfortunately resembled a racist simulation that could define them to an American audience. But that simulation has never actually been implicated in a real crime.
To impugn Rahman and Zaghloul for their dress, then, is to engage in highly troublesome judgment, one that not only contravenes their Constitutional rights, but also the rules of basic logic. The United States has long been a place where appearance is believed to foreground attitude or behavior (vis-à-vis skin color, clothes, physiognomy, ethnic typology, gender, sexuality, possessions, and so forth). Yet judgment by appearance is a terribly ineffective indicator of either attitude or behavior, not to mention being highly unethical and often illegal.
Those who believe that Rahman and Zaghloul brought their unjust treatment on themselves ought to think about what their lives would be like if their own logic were applied to them. In the end, if we are to let fanciful stereotypes dictate access to basic rights of citizenship, then none of us will ever live up to the grandiose promise of our own worthiness.
GAZA CITY — EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva called for the “immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons,” following her trip to the coastal enclave Tuesday.
It was a message she also conveyed to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv, when she met with the official after her Gaza visit.
Her trip, a statement from her office of International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response said, “highlighted the dramatic human and far-reaching effects of the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Israel’s four-year siege on Gaza has seen the slow closure of import terminals and imposition of strict control on the goods permitted to enter the area. The ban includes a prohibition on the import of a long list of goods, like construction material, industrial items for manufacturing, electronics, medical equipment and many fertilizers. Without access to the materials, factories remain closed, homes remain in rubble, the medical sector remains inadequate and farming undeveloped.
The “blockade exacerbates the predicament of a large number of Palestinians, and hinders the flow of humanitarian aid, persons and commercial goods to and from the Gaza Strip,” Georgieva’s statement noted.
The commissioner said the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access for Gaza should be implemented; a comprehensive agreement mandating international forces on the Rafah border area between Egypt and Gaza, as well as a regular system of imports from Israel into the coastal enclave.
“The blockade maintains Gaza people in a state of humanitarian vulnerability and dependency. By impeding the movement of people and the import and export of goods, there is hardly no prospect for development. For example, it is very difficult to bring construction materials into Gaza, where they are urgently needed to build houses and schools as well as health and sanitary basic facilities,” she said.
Maan news agency reports that The Planning and Building Committee for Jerusalem have announced plans for 1,500 new Jewish only housing units in illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.
The announcement comes hours before US President Barrack Obama’s talk on the region later today and days before Israeli PM’s speech before US congress next Tuesday. The housing units are due to be built in the illegal settlements of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev. The settlements are part of land occupied after the 1967 war and as such are internationally recognised as Palestinian Territory. Much of the settlements are on privately owned Palestinian land.
The settlements have been a thorn in the side of the Obama administration in its search for a resolution to the conflict. Obama offered extensive benefits to Netanyahu in return for a halt to settlement construction, including vetoing any Palestinian motions in the UN. However Netanyahu rejected the propsals and resumed settlement activity last September.
Palestinian leaders say a halt to settlement construction is an absolute prerequisite to any potential peace talks. Settlement activity, they claim, makes a future Palestinian state unviable and must be stopped.