By Jonathan Cook, blog
April 17, 2017
Israel is to hold lavish celebrations over the coming weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of what it calls the “liberation of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights” – or what the rest of us describe as the birth of the occupation.
The centrepiece event will take place in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. The West Bank settlement “bloc” enjoys wide support in Israel, not least because it was established long ago by the supposedly left-wing Labour party, now heading the opposition.
The jubilee is a potent reminder that for Israelis, most of whom have never known a time before the occupation, Israel’s rule over the Palestinians seems as irreversible as the laws of nature. But the extravagance of the festivities also underscores the growth over five decades of Israel’s self-assurance as an occupier.
Documents found this month in Israel’s archives reveal that, when Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, its first concern was to hoodwink the international community.
The foreign ministry ordered Israel’s ambassadors to mischaracterise its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem as a simple “municipal fusion”. To avoid diplomatic reprisals, Israel claimed it was necessary to ease the provision of essential services to the occupied Palestinian population.
Interestingly, those drafting the order advised that the deception was unlikely to succeed. The United States had already insisted that Israel commit no unilateral moves.
But within months Israel had evicted thousands of Palestinians from the Old City and destroyed their homes. Washington and Europe have been turning a blind eye to such actions ever since.
One of the Zionist movement’s favourite early slogans was: “Dunam after dunam, goat after goat”. The seizure of small areas of territory measured in dunams, the demolition of the odd home, and the gradual destruction of herding animals would slowly drive the Palestinians off most of their land, “liberating” it for Jewish colonisation. If it was done piecemeal, the objections from overseas would remain muffled. It has proved a winning formula.
Fifty years on, the colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank is so entrenched that a two-state solution is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Nonetheless, US president Donald Trump has chosen this inauspicious moment to dispatch an envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a “goodwill” response, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled a framework for settlement building. It is exactly the kind of formula for deception that has helped Israel consolidate the occupation since 1967.
Mr Netanyahu says expansion will be “restricted” to “previously developed” settlements, or “adjacent” areas, or, depending on the terrain, “land close” to a settlement.
Peace Now points out that the settlements already have jurisdiction over some 10 per cent of the West Bank, while far more is treated as “state land”. The new framework, says the group, gives the settlers a green light to “build everywhere”.
The Trump White House has shrugged its shoulders. A statement following Mr Netanyahu’s announcement judged the settlements no “impediment to peace”, adding that Israel’s commitments to previous US administrations would be treated as moot.
Effectively, the US is wiping the slate clean, creating a new baseline for negotiations after decades of Israeli changes stripping the Palestinians of territory and rights.
Although none of this bodes well, Egypt and Jordan’s leaders met Mr Trump this month to push for renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House is said to be preparing to welcome the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Some senior Palestinians are rightly wary. Abbas Zaki, a Fatah leader, fears Mr Trump will try to impose a regional solution on Arab states, over Mr Abbas’s head, designed to “eliminate the Palestinian cause altogether”.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, reportedly once said: “What matters is not what the goyim [non-Jews] say, but what the Jews do.”
The Eli settlement. The fencing makes them impassable by Palestinians. From Peace Now.
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Oslo accords dangled an illusory peace carrot that usefully distracted the global community as Israel nearly quadrupled its settler population, making even a highly circumscribed Palestinian state unrealisable. Now, that game plan is about to be revived in new form. While the US, Israel, Jordan and Egypt focus on the hopeless task of creating a regional framework for peace, Israel will be left undisturbed once again to seize more dunams and more goats.
In Israel, the debate is no longer simply about whether to build settler homes, or about how many can be justified. Government ministers argue instead about the best moment to annex vast areas of the West Bank associated with so-called settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion.
Israel’s imminent celebrations should lay to rest any confusion that the occupation is still considered temporary. But when occupation becomes permanent, it metamorphoses into something far uglier.
It is past time to recognise that Israel has established an apartheid regime and one that serves as a vehicle for incremental ethnic cleansing. If there are to be talks, ending that outrage must be their first task.
New expansion of the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement. Photo by Amir Cohen.
March 31, 2017
Israeli media reports that yesterday’s government decision included not only operative steps to expand the settlements (i.e, establish a new settlement, publish tenders for 1,992 housing units, and declare 977 dunams as state land for the retroactive legalisation of 3 illegal outposts) but rather also a new government policy towards the building of settlement units. The new policy would enable continuous expansion of all settlements, without any limitations, contrary to how the government is trying to frame this.
According to Barak Ravid of Haaretz, the new policy is to limit construction by applying 4 conditions: (1) that the construction would only be within the “built-up area” of a settlement whenever this is possible; (2) If the first condition (restriction to “built-up area”) is not possible, then construction would be limited to an area adjacent to the built-up area; (3) However, if conditions (1) and (2) are not possible, then construction would be in an area that is close as possible to the “built-up area.” (4) Finally, the new policy is to prevent the establishment of new illegal outposts.
A close read of this policy suggests that in practical terms, no restriction would be enforced at all.
First, the policy allows [settlers] to build everywhere – inside, adjacent to or outside the settlement.
Second, previous experience has taught us that a policy of “building within” a settlement is in practice a way to dismiss international criticism while at the same time expand settlements, as explained below.
And third, one of the most important effects of the expansion of settlements has to do with the number of settlers that Israel will need to evict in an agreement based on the two state solution formula. For this matter, it doesn’t matter how much land settlements take but how many people live in them.
Why the argument of “building inside, but not expanding, settlements is bogus?
The definition of “inside a settlement” and “expanding” can be quite flexible in the eyes of the settlers and the Israeli government.
To think about this more concretely:
Place your hand on a hard surface, splay your fingers wide apart, and take a pen and trace your handprint. Your handprint represents the built-up area of a settlement.
Draw another line connecting your fingers and your thumb. This line represents the land the settlers might argue is, in effect, already part of the built-up area, even if it has no buildings on it yet.
Draw a circle around the handprint, leaving a few inches of empty space between this new line and the handprint inside. This line represents the security fence surrounding the settlement, which the settlers might argue is already in effect the “footprint” of the settlement on the ground, since this area is wholly under the settlement’s control.
Draw another much larger circle around the previous circle. This represents the municipal area of the settlement, which the settlers might argue is legally and officially part of the settlement, even if they have not built on it yet.
It is this argument over lines – with settlers looking to exploit any loophole they can find in order to permit more expansion of settlements – that has led past US administrations into the trap of seemingly endless and irresolvable negotiations over how to decide what it means to build “inside” settlements. This is not a debate over semantics. Many settlements have far-flung “neighborhoods” that, if used as the basis for the “construction line,” would permit massive expansion that would allow settlements to grow many times over.
One indicator to the real intention of the government is the reaction of the settlers leadership who seems very pleased of the new “restraint”. According to Yesha Council, the new policy, “enables continued settlement establishment within all settlements at Judea and Samaria.”
Examples of settlements and “built-up areas:”
By looking at the settlements of Eli and Maale Adumim, one can see how troubling the term “built-up area” is. In the pictures below, we drew a Yellow Line around the current built-up area of the both settlements. We also added a a Black Line to indicate the fence that is surrounding the settlement, to that shows the actual land grab of the settlement. In the map of Ma’ale Adumim, we also included in light Blue the jurisdiction area of the settlement to highlight to the extent of the control that the settlement has.
Accordingly, it is possible to identify that there are great “empty” lands between built- up areas within an established settlement. The new policy construction is seemingly permitting of construction within these “empty territories.” Furthermore, because the policy does not define the “outline” of the built up area, i.e, how to draw the “border” of the built up area, it is possible to draw almost any imaginary “outline” that connects distant built up areas, and thus enabling to drastically expand any given settlement.