In this view from Alon Ben-Meir, the settlements on Palestinian land are an ‘albatross’ round Netanyahu’s neck as he seeks to engage in direct negotiations with Palestinians. This is an odd interpretation (by HuffPost) given Bibi’s enthusiasm for colonising the West Bank – in the name of ‘security’ (King Abdullah ll is about to launch an assault on Israel?). It is true that every new house on Palestinian land is an assault on ‘peace hopes’ – but this would not be a curse if Netanyahu actually wanted to arrive at a just arrangement.
“I don’t expect any progress at all unless there is huge and powerful American pressure, such as the one we are seeing to deal with the Syrian issue,” says Abed Rabbo, one of the two officials authorized to discuss the talks. John Kery will talk with Abbas, London September 9th on his European visit to get backing for the US on Syria.
Sunday’s confirmation that the Israeli government plans to build housing for several thousand Israeli Jews in W. Bank settlements seems a challenge to their American sponsors. But for Netanyahu the pressure comes, not from the Palestinians, but from Jewish Home and his right-wing anti-Palestinian American friends. Perhaps he is gambling on their support, on there now being too much at stake for the talks to founder – there was no reaction to his announcement of new funds for settlements – and on being able to blame the PA if they do.
Ari Shavit and Rachel Shabi both note the scale of settlement building, the only driving force in this Israeli government, and point out that it kills off a two-state solution and international goodwill – if not the future of the Jewish state itself. For the more land Israel claims, the less of a stable and cohesive political entity it is.
Some careful work with maps shows Chaim Levison that there has been a creeping increase in the amount of land given to settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. While both the EU and the US have chastised the Israeli government for its settlement policies, it is the IDF’s Central Command which has the authority over land use in the oPt. Zionism, the system where government and army have but one mind.
“Everyone in the system today is driving one agenda: promoting settlements over the green line” says a colleague of Uri Ariel, settler leader, who has just been given the housing ministry – the key to the door of more settlements, no home-building by Palestinians and an open insult to Palestinians, the EU, the UN and Barack Obama on his visit.
The EU has two voices on Israel and Palestine The quiet voice discreetly makes preferential trade deals with Israel. The louder, political one – including the EU consuls in the West Bank and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – is angry that Israel has rejected all diplomatic means to establish a Palestinian state. Israel wants to sell its goods, without labelling settlement products, to a market it treats with contempt.
An unnamed source in the Israeli government has told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that Angela Merkel, or the German Chancellor’s office, is to withhold payments to Holocaust survivors until Israel stops building settlements in the West Bank. It is not said whether this would apply to all survivors or just those living in Israel. The reputed action is attributed to a German official who wishes to damage Israeli-German relations. Story unconfirmed.
Strategically, should those who want a negotiated peace stand fast by the position that settlements are the major obstacle to negotiations, or should they consider Hillel Halkin’s argument that settlers could live within a Palestinian state – although it is up to the Palestinians to decide.
Although Col. Arieli argues that settlements need not prevent a 2-state solution (link in post) a report from Peace Now (3) says the hectic building under Netanyahu is a deliberate block to an independent Palestine. 1, Netanyahu pledges not to make any settlers leave W.Bank. 2, an overview from Reuters.
In his ‘Expert View’ Col. Arieli , an executive member of the Council for Peace and Security, argues that the settlements in the West Bank are sufficiently separate and inhabited by Israelis with no ideological motivation to stay, that they could be excised under any peace agreement; those near the border with Israel could be incorporated into Israel under a 1:1 land swap deal. Thus in his view they do no constitute an insuperable barrier to a negotiated two-state solution.
Even the US’s UN ambassador has described Israel’s latest settlement expansion – which includes a new city in the West Bank – as ‘provocative.’ Even Tony Blair has supported the more forthright criticisms of the new encroachments on Palestinian living space. As Netanyahu has chosen Israeli expansion over negotiations, the EU, UN. Quartet and USA are left without a policy.
Using Netanyahu’s statement of building new settlements in E1 and elsewhere as a benchmark, MJ Rosenberg takes the silence of Congress, Jewish leadership and the Obama administration as damning evidence. If they actually cared about Israel and MidEast peace they would have spoken. They don’t.
Gershon Baskin explores what steps Europeans might take to put their words of disapproval into action. He thinks this would make Europe more influential in Israel ( although as most Israelis associate Europe with antisemitism it is unlikely to be a favourable influence). UPDATE: Lieberman invokes Holocaust.
“Revenge time” tweets Ha’aretz editor Aluf Benn; the Palestinians are being punished because Obama failed to make European countries vote with Israel at the UNGA session. Reports of Israel’s reactions from Al-Monitor, Mondoweiss and Ynet news.
The announcement by Israel’s Housing Ministry of tenders for new settler homes in East Jerusalem was quickly condemned by Lady Ashton, the UK, France and Germany. The EU, like the USA, is committed to negotiations for 2 states which settlement building makes impossible.
22 NGOs, Christian and secular, have taken up what EU institutions have flunked: a campaign to press the EC and EU members to practise their policies on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and what they produce. CAABU media release plus excerpt from the report Trading Away Peace.
If you read only the swath of news and commentary on Richard Falk’s report to the UN last week on human rights in the oPt you might think he was being arraigned as a moral pariah. Read the speech of this brave and knowledgeable man for yourself and decide why the fuss was about him as the messenger rather than the situation he analyses and documents.
In an address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Special Rapporteur Richard Falk spoke of the many companies now making use of the favourable (for them) conditions of production in the settlements. He called for these companies to be boycotted. None of the many bodies attacking him noted the laws and agreements which, Mr.Falk pointed out, the companies were violating.
Harriet Sherwood sketches out the illegal building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and President Obama’s inability to make this a sticking point in US/Israeli relations. Second, Hagit Ofren deplores the plan to build a military academy on top of the Mount of Olives, a site of religious importance in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.