Robert Novak asks. Congressman Henry Hyde, now that he's retiring and has nothing to lose, is putting a little heat on Israel's settlement plans, as Novak reports:
Hyde's committee report employs stronger language than the congressman had used previously. It calls for insistence that Israel ''honor its pledge to stop settlement expansion'' and suggests the security barrier is ''a pretext for annexing territory.''
The report rejects the widespread impression that the Olmert regime really is abandoning the West Bank and disbanding the settlements. The report says ''the Bethlehem area is home to over 20 Israeli settlements and there are plans to build more. The settlements in the barrier completely encircle the Christian triangle of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour (Shepherds' Field).''
Furthermore, the report contends that ''fundamentalist'' settlers in East Jerusalem ''intend to establish their own brand of Jewish exclusivity'' and have ''Messianic aspirations on the Temple Mount.'' That ''undermines'' the stability of Jerusalem as a future shared capital of Israel and Palestine, which is described as ''vital'' to U.S. interests in a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution.