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Is there an award for last minute lame-duck presidential courage? If so, it should be given to the outgoing administration for finally taking a stand, however fruitless, on Israel’s continuing settlement construction on land seized in the 1967 war by abstaining from its customary veto of condemnation votes in the Security Council.

For a half century no American administration has had the guts to stand up to this program, which assures the Middle East’s long and bloody struggle will go on and on and on. Those of us who care about Israel’s safety and security as well as the aspirations of the Palestinian people know that a two-state solution is the only way this conflict could ever be resolved.

Where Israel may see the settlements as an enhancement of its defense it must be weighted against the continuing insecurity it will face as a result of Palestinian frustration and resentment and the violence that will result.

Much to the regret of anyone who sees this reality, it appears that the new administration’s stated intentions are about to make the situation much worse. The world will pay the price for this failure for many years.

Geoffrey Braden, Seattle