14 - 20 October 1999
Issue No. 451
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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No more land, no more peaceWhen Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announces the formation of a cabinet committee to decide the fate of 42 small Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, he may impress those who do not know the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the daily suffering of the Palestinian people.
The Israeli premier himself admits that these outposts are illegal -- even under Israel's laws -- and that they were built without Israeli government permission. Former right-wing premier Binyamin Netanyahu made every effort to back the settlers and encourage their expansion into Palestinian territory. Any group of extremists could take over a hillside, bring in some mobile homes and announce that this spot was a new settlement which could never be removed. These are the settlements the prime minister is ready to remove, so that he can claim, as he prepares to fly to Washington in a few weeks, that he is working hard to achieve peace.
In fact, Barak is still issuing orders to build more settlements near main West Bank cities and around Jerusalem, in order to usurp more Palestinian land ahead of final settlement talks and to make sure that any future Palestinian entity will remain in an Israeli stranglehold. In his meeting with leaders of huge settlements such as Ma'al Adumim, Barak vowed that "none of the existing settlements would be removed".
The old Israeli sales pitch about the "natural growth" of settlements is another bare-faced lie. Barak is the one who gives the orders for the construction of 3,000 or 4,000 houses within an existing settlement. These orders necessitate the occupation of more land. The land must then be cleared of Palestinians. This process can hardly be termed natural growth.
International law, UN resolutions and human rights conventions clearly state that building settlements in occupied territory is illegal. A hundred thousand Israelis should not determine the fate of over three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, let alone the fate of four million others in the Diaspora, who are entitled to return to their homeland after final settlement talks conclude.
The Arabs have made a tremendous compromise by agreeing to UN resolutions that call only for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Arab territories occupied in 1967, as opposed to the border defined by UN Resolution 181, which divided Palestine into two states. With the ongoing Israeli settlement activity sponsored by Barak, however, there will be no more land to negotiate on, and there will be no peace. Barak is not working to promote peace. He is paving the way for a new confrontation.