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Obama demands that Israel stop settlements. How feasible is that?

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Stalled peace, flourishing construction

When former President George W. Bush got former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to commit to a freeze on settlements at the Annapolis peace summit 18 months ago, in the sprawling settlement of Ariel builders had just finished the foundation work on four new apartment buildings on Moriah Street – located on the southeastern edge of this Israeli bedroom community in the heart of the West Bank.

As the Annapolis process stalled and collapsed, the apartments were completed and sold to Israelis willing to move across the Green Line into the West Bank, where home prices are cheaper. Now, the frames of four more bigger buildings are nearing conclusion just up the road.

"It's a new building in a settlement, and if someone went out there, we'd note that. That's a crystal-clear violation," says a Western diplomat, referring to the Bush administration's 2003 "road map" – a blueprint for peace that calls for a settlement freeze. Israel has agreed to the road map but claims implementation is dependent on Palestinian fulfillment of parallel obligations.

How to monitor a freeze

While Israelis and Palestinians negotiated the nitty-gritty details of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza in the final year of the Bush administration, US military and diplomatic officials were deployed in the West Bank to monitor both Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the road map. The peace plan calls on the Palestinians to rein in militants while Israel ceases settlement activity and lifts movement restrictions on Palestinians.

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