"If you tell a lie long enough it becomes truth." Most know who this quote is attributed to and unfortunately it has time and again shown to be correct. This time, however, it is our own Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, who has fallen victim to this.
McCully recently stated that "the viability of the two-state solution is disappearing as a consequence of Israeli settlement activity" (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/299025/mccully-criticises-israeli-settlements).
Whilst the settlements will clearly need to be addressed in any permanent agreement with the Palestinians, they are not the cause of the current impasse or the viability of a two-state solution. The settlements represent less than 2% of the West Bank and it is widely acknowledged that a significant number will become part of Israel in any final agreement, with land swaps as compensation. This has already been offered to the Palestinians at least twice (2000 and 2008. Both times they rejected the offer.
In addition the settlements have not increased in size in around 15 years. Any growth has been within the boundaries, to accommodate natural growth. Furthermore, any illegal settlements have been forcibly removed by the Israeli authorities.
Israel has also shown that it is willing to remove settlements, either as part of a peace treaty, as with Egypt in 1980, or unilaterally as in Gaza in 2005. The result of the evacuation of the settlements from Gaza and an Israeli presence there has been met with a unimaginable increase in rocket activity towards Israel which no country in the world, except Israel apparently, would be expected to tolerate.
We have no doubt that any peace deal with the Palestinians would include further evacuation of settlements, as was offered in 2000 and 2008, despite this meaning that areas of significant Jewish historical and religious significance will became 'Judenfrei' (Jew free).
The fact is that the lack of progress in the peace process is the constant rejection of any proposal by the Palestinian leadership, the constant rejection of recognising the Jewishness of the State of Israel and the desire to see an end to the Jewish majority by insisting on the right of return, and the blatant incitement to violence, terroism and murder of Israeli Jews by Abbas and his associates.
If the Palestinians wanted peace, which would include recognising the Jewish State of Israel and not simply that a country called Israel currently exists in lands between "Jordan and the sea", they know that they could have it within a relatively short period of time. But they will not accept the Jewish connection to the land and they will not accept the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. This is the reason why the viability of a two-state solution for two people is, if we are to believe McCully, disappearing. It has nothing to do with the settlements. This is a deliberate diversion from the truth and anyone who knows anything about the history of the conflict knows that this can and will be resolved if true peace, including recognition of the Jewish State of Israel, is wanted by the Palestinian leadership.
For McCully, and more recently New Zealand representative to the United Nations Security Council Gerard van Bohemen, to suggest that the current impasse is all Israel's fault does not help bring peace, rather it rewards the intransigence by the Palestinians and it diminishes New Zealand's reputation as an honest broker.