In a Washington Post article entitled "Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s.," Griff Witte writes of Israeli West Bank construction "in these sacred, militarily occupied hills [almost makes you want to cry]":
"[E]very day they become a more entrenched reality on land that Palestinians say should rightfully belong to them. As the parched beige hilltops fill with red-tiled homes, decades of international efforts to achieve a two-state solution are unraveling.
. . . .
Today, about 400,000 Israelis live in approximately 150 settlements scattered across the West Bank. That’s up from fewer than 300,000 when Barack Obama was elected. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their future capital."
However, as observed last week in a Washington Post editorial entitled "On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started" (my emphasis in red):
"In fact, the two-state solution remains entirely viable, as even the settlement statistics cited by Mr. Kerry demonstrate. The administration asserts that the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by 100,000 since 2009 — but by Mr. Kerry’s account, 80 percent of that growth was in areas Israel would likely annex in any settlement. In eight years, 20,000 people have been added to communities in territory likely to become part of Palestine — an area where 2.75 million Arabs now live. That growth of about 3 percent per annum, the product of a restraint for which Mr. Netanyahu received no White House credit, means that the Jewish population outside Israel’s West Bank fence may have decreased as a percentage of the overall population even as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have made it the focal point of U.S. policy."
Similarly, Rick Richman wrote in a December 28, 2016 Commentary article entitled "It’s Not the Settlements, Stupid":
"The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80 percent of it has been in the settlement blocs 'everyone knows' Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement. The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier, established to stop the wave of Palestinian mass murders against Israelis, translates into less than one percent of the population in the disputed territories, over a period of eight years."
Witte also fails to take into account what was acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: Israeli settlements have been built on only some 1.1% of the West Bank. Additionally, he does not make mention of past Israeli evacuations of Sinai and Gaza.
Witte goes on to say:
"'Everyone who talks about a Palestinian state today knows it will not happen,' said Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.
. . . .
It’s not clear whether Netanyahu will be willing to go as far as his education minister, an ally at times but a fierce rival at others. Netanyahu is still on record supporting a two-state solution, albeit grudgingly."
Netanyahu supports a "two-state solution, albeit grudgingly"? Netanyahu last month declared on 60 Minutes:
"I’m willing to negotiate with [the Palestinian Authority] at any moment. I haven’t reversed my position. I’ve said, ‘Look, we will solve this because we want two nation states at peace and with the proper security arrangements.’ Two states for two peoples…. that’s where I’m focused."
And whereas Witte is happy to quote Bennett, he avoids mention of the position taken by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives on the West Bank and has stated "I even agree to vacate my settlement if there really will be a two-state solution." More recently, as reported by The Times of Israel in a November 16, 2016 article entitled "Liberman open to building freeze outside settlement blocs," this right-wing firebrand said that he is "ready to freeze building outside the blocs in exchange for an American agreement to expand settlement building in Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim and other areas widely expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty in the event of a future peace deal."
Bottom line: Witte's "news" item is devoid of balance, but why should we be surprised?