It seems the Israeli settlement-freeze scheme, which in its most recent, Obamic, incarnation began to flounder almost as soon as it was born last October, is lingering like an aqueous floater in the mind's eye of Mr. Obama’s Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell. The other day, exchanging pleasantries with his Arab interlocutors in the Palestinian purlieu of the “proximity talks” he is lately and farcically conducting between the two sides, Mr. Mitchell apparently suggested that “the U.S. views Israel’s measures in the settlements and Jerusalem as ‘illegal’.” Well golly, so much for that moratorium on settlement construction he and the Secretary of State shoved down the Israeli throat, and which was “more than any Israeli government has done before and can help movement toward agreement between the parties!”

But if Mr. Mitchell is suffering from a feeling the freeze is too soft, thousands of those self-same Palestinians on whose behalf he is so outraged are suffering from a feeling the freeze is too hard. These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those “illegitimate” settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13. “The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,” Abdel Aziz Othman tells the Christian Science Monitor.

“Work in the settlements has decreased dramatically in the last few months – it’s nothing like it was before. But our lives haven’t changed for the better and the leaders aren’t any closer to peace, so what’s the point?” says Walid Mustafa, a sort of self-appointed spokesman of the unemployed and father of seven who says he’s lucky to find work one day a month. . . . “There’s no work anywhere,” agrees Issa Muhammed Mahmoud, a young man who spends most days sitting here, chatting and drinking tea for lack of something else to do.

More Palestinian poverty presumably is not the desired outcome of the U.S.’s settlement offensive. But if Mr. Peace and his Washington masters persist in demanding that the Jewish wing of the wished-for-two-states-living-wing-to-wing-in-perfect-harmony configuration continue to freeze the construction that has offered gainful employment to the Arab wing, more poverty is precisely what they will produce.

If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.

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