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Settlements Issue Overrated, Says Top Israeli Adviser Jason Koutsoukis

As the U.S. hardens its policy of zero growth in West Bank Jewish settlements, the policy circle around Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to reject it as unworkable. Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said the issue of settlements in the West Bank was overrated as an obstacle to peace. "The settlements themselves cover only 1.7% of the actual land in the area we are talking about that could become a Palestinian state. Growth itself is infinitesimal." "It's not the key issue affecting peace in the Middle East, and it's never been a big issue for other countries in the Middle East. It's disingenuous." Gold says it is time for a new approach. "Whenever we sit down to negotiate over a Palestinian state, we get stuck on the same issues. We can't give Palestinians control of the air space. We can't allow a Palestinian state to make defensive treaties with countries like Iran. Settlement growth? The issue is the security of Israel, not whether someone can build an extension to their home in Efrat." (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)