Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have long been considered illegal by the international community. US President Obama’s recent demands that Israel cease all settlement activity reflect diverging interests amongst the two allies. After all, peace plans will go nowhere until Israel shows serious intent, and the settlement issue has emerged as the first major test of wills.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing games to see what he can get away with, and it’s time to do a “James Baker” on this slick dick. An old 1979 State Department legal ruling determined that Israeli settlement-building in occupied Palestinian territory “is inconsistent with international law.” Like the Bush-style offensive of clamping down on US-Muslim groups that send funds to supposedly dodgy end-users in the Mideast, the Obama administration can invoke the 1979 ruling as gospel, and chase down any and all US groups that send funds to aid Israel’s settlements.

Hey – if we are serious about pushing through an Israel-Palestine peace deal with a final settlement, we have to wean Israel off decades of mollycoddling so that they sit up straight and understand we mean business. Make it illegal to aid West Bank and Jerusalem settlement activities, and watch things grind to a halt. It doesn’t even have to be too confrontational – get the UN Security Council to do it…and this time sit on our veto.