One frustrating thing I've found about getting sucked into debates on the Middle East is that it's very rare that critics of my views describe them accurately. By "accurately," I don't mean "in the terms I would use myself," but "in terms that aren't totally inconsistent with my actual beliefs." Oddly, this happens much less often when I argue with right-wingers.
The latest instance is Matthew Duss of Think Progress. Duss writes:
Pushing back on the idea that the settlements represented an obstacle to two-states, last year the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait argued, like Frum, that “settlements are reversible"
Was I pushing back on the idea that settlements are an obstacle to peace? Here's the post in question:
Clearly, the larger the settlements, the more political leverage it takes to uproot them. That's why, in addition to being a drain on Israel's economy, the settlements are highly counterproductive. But if Israel's government and population can be convinced that a real peace is attainable, then they should be able to dismantle the settlements. The settlements are an obstacle, but not the primary obstacle.
What I was pushing back against was Stephen Walt's claim that settlements were making peace impossible. Again, for the record, I consider settlements a very major problem. I do think, though, that the more important problem is the refusal of Palestinians to accept the legitimacy of any Jewish state. In a 2009 poll, 71% of Palestinians said it was "essential" to have a state that encompasses all of present Israel and the West Bank. Only 17% of Israelis said it was essential to have a Jewish state controlling all that territory. I believe that, if presented with a peace accord that Israelis think will not endanger their security, it is difficult but far from impossible to imagine an Israeli government signing on. I have a harder time envisioning a Palestinian government doing the same -- any Palestinian government that surrenders the dream of replacing Israel is going to be an unrepresentative one that's likely to be quickly overthrown. I think it's still worth trying, and the settlements remain a crime, but that's my view of the obstacles to peace in order of their importance.