Bridging that disconnect is a major challenge for President Obama, who is expected this week to try to restart Middle East peace talks at the UN General Assembly, where he's scheduled to meet with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
This is the latest chapter in the on again, off again drama that has played out between Jerusalem and Washington for decades: Every US president since Lyndon Johnson has urged Israel not to build or expand settlements in the territories it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. But with more than 300,000 Israeli settlers living in some 120 settlements – and Mr. Netanyahu exempting nearly 3,000 housing units from a six-month freeze – the settlement issue has only become more formidable. (Read a full briefing page on Israeli settlements here.)
BUT WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD CHOOSE to settle in the midst of such unsettled conflict?
It is not necessarily the well-armed ideologues who have characterized the settlement movement over the years. The bulk of settlers today, according to various surveys, come mostly for economic or "lifestyle" reasons.
About 30 percent of those are ultra-Orthodox Jews for whom the primary goal is living in an affordable religious com-munity, irrespective of whether it lies beyond the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 borders. New immigrants, such as Americans and those from the former Soviet Union, make up a smaller portion.