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JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011



Unnatural Growth

forwardThe settlement of Beit El is nestled in the center of the West Bank, near enough to Jerusalem for a tolerable commute — an hour by bus — yet in a world of its own. It is beyond the “Green Line” marking the 1967 border, beyond the security barrier and so close to Ramallah that it surely would be part of an independent Palestinian state, if one were ever created.

It is not a major population center like Ma’ale Adumim, which has essentially become a suburb of Jerusalem and, many expect, would be on the Israeli side of the border in any final peace agreement. But Beit El is growing just the same. Data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics put the population in 2003 at 4,627; by 2007, it grew to 5,288, and the trend continues. In the Binyamin region where Beit El sits, the population grew 6.3% in 2007 and another 4.8% in 2008.

This is what “natural growth” looks like: Trailers designated for newly married residents pushing at the seams of an existing settlement. A steady stream of government permits to build more buildings. A steady stream of people moving to make their homes on disputed land, with the government’s explicit blessing. The statistics bureau estimates that one-third of the annual growth in settlements is due to migration.

Israel pledged to freeze settlement growth in the 2003 “road map,” and again at the Annapolis summit 18 months ago. But the settlements continue to grow, and successive governments across the political spectrum enable the expansion, sometimes with the bureaucratic version of a wink and a nod, other times with full-throated defiance. The Netanyahu government is striking the defiant pose these days, belittling the very notion that continued settlement growth is somehow an obstacle to negotiations and describing President Obama’s call for a settlement freeze as “unreasonable.”

Obama isn’t being unreasonable. Netanyahu is. The Israeli government’s defense of “natural growth” masks its true intent. Ministers say that families deserve the right to stay in their communities as their broods increase, and that is why settlements should be allowed to add homes, schools and synagogues. That’s a “right” enjoyed by no one else in Israel, or the United States, for that matter.

But governments do have a right — indeed, an obligation — to plan growth in their communities, to zone for appropriate use, to respect the boundaries of adjacent neighborhoods. Most of us cannot build on our property without the requisite permits and permissions, never mind suddenly decide to annex the backyard next door to accommodate a larger household.

“If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them — to ship the children off to Petah Tikva?” asked Daniel Herschkowitz, Israel’s minister of science and technology. Actually, it’s not the government’s role to tell any family where to live, or how many children to bring into this world, or to grant special dispensation to the religious Zionists in Beit El while secular Jews in Petah Tikva struggle to find enough living space.

Netanyahu is obviously trying to buy time, to keep together his fragile, fractious, right-wing ruling coalition, and to wait as the Jewish footprint in the occupied territories continues to expand. He’s not the only one engaged in a cynical waiting game. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also waiting — for Israel to be pressed for concessions by the Americans and, maybe, for the Netanyahu government to collapse. He, too, must be held accountable for the promises made by his government to improve security, weed out corruption, clamp down on the hate taught in schools and universities, and give his people a decent alternative to the dangerous Hamas.

True, Netanyahu cannot be expected to act in a vacuum. But neither can he endlessly use the other side’s recalcitrance as an excuse not to keep his country’s word. As our Nathan Jeffay reports this week, the Israeli public is becoming less supportive of the settlers and more convinced that the growth of outlying settlements is a detriment to national security. So are many American Jewish lawmakers and communal leaders. They are saying what the current Israeli leadership needs to hear: There’s nothing natural, or acceptable, about “natural growth.”

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