Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Israel defies world on settlements

Israel is taking an unusual amount of flak on its latest settlements provocation, including from the United States

Al-Ahram Weekly

Israel has said it won’t bow to international — including American — pressure to reconsider plans to build thousands of settler units in East Jerusalem, which observers say would irreversibly decapitate the two-state solution vision and put an end to all hopes for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, reports Khaled Amayreh.

Earlier this week, the Israeli government announced plans to build more than 3000 settler units in an area known as E-1 extending from East Jerusalem to the Jewish colony of Maali Adumim three kilometres eastward.

If implemented, the plan would cut off Arab East Jerusalem nearly completely from the rest of the West Bank, rendering the establishment of a Palestinian state, especially one with Jerusalem as its capital, an impossible task.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu brushed off all criticisms of the “strategic settlement project”, saying Israel would defend its national interests under all circumstances.

With characteristic arrogance and stonewalling, Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the provocative Israel measure. The Egyptian Foreign Minister summoned the Israeli ambassador to Cairo on Tuesday to express its utter denumciation of the Israeli decision that contradicts the principle of exchanging land for peace and impedes efforts to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace prospects.

“The unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN are a blatant fundamental violation of agreements to which the international community was a sponsor. No one should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its arms folded in response to international pressure,” he said.

Ever since its occupation of the West Bank, Israel built tens of thousands of settler units, populating them with hundreds of thousands of fanatical Zionist and Talmudic millenarians advocating the expulsion or liquidation of Palestinians.

Palestinian officials called Netanyahu’s remark “pure lies”, saying that Netanyahu had no right to “invoke unilateralism” since everything he and his government has done was unilateral and in violation of international law.

“Netanyahu is lying through his teeth. He is committing an act of lewdness with truth and with language. He is accusing the Palestinians of indulging in the same crimes and violations of which he himself is guilty,” said Nimr Hammad, a political aide to, and confidante of, Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Mahmoud Abbas.

“Israel has been truncating and carving our land for many years, building colonies in violation of international law, and trying to obliterate the Arab-Islamic identity of Jerusalem. And after doing all this, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have the nerve to accuse us of unilateralism. This is really beyond the pale of simple human decency,” Hammad added.

Other Israeli officials have sought to downplay the controversy over the latest Israeli decision to build more settlements in the West Bank. Danny Ayalon, Israel’s eccentric deputy foreign minister, was quoted by Israeli state-run radio Tuesday as saying that “calling in ambassadors for consultation is a normal diplomatic practice in international relations”.

Ayalon added that safeguarding vital Israeli interests was more paramount than winning small victories or scoring points in international public diplomacy.

Israel considers the occupied Palestinian territories “disputed” rather than “occupied” land. Hence the Tel Aviv is worried that the recent recognition by the UN General Assembly of Palestine as a non-member state of the world body, a state under occupation, will turn Israeli political and strategic calculations upside down.

 

WAVE OF CRITICISMS: Meanwhile, the decision to build additional thousands of settler units in Jerusalem continues to draw unusual negative diplomatic reactions from the international community, especially Western countries many of which are widely considered close allies of Israel.

The latest protest came from Australia, a strong ally of Tel Aviv, which abstained from voting on the Palestinian request at the UN for recognition as an observer state.

On Tuesday, 4 December, the Australian Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest the settlement expansion plan in East Jerusalem as well as the Israeli decision to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority.

“Australia has long opposed all (Israeli) settlement activity. Such activity threatens the viability of a two-state solution without which there will be no security for Israel,” said Foreign Minister Bob Carr in a statement following a brief meeting with Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem in Canberra.

“I am extremely disappointed with these reported Israeli decisions,” he added.

The Australian move followed similar actions in Europe, including France, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Denmark. The foreign ministers of these countries earlier summoned Israeli ambassadors in their respective capitals to protest the Israeli move, with Alistair Burt, the British Foreign Office minister for the Middle East urging Israel to annul the decision.

“I set out the depth of the UK’s concern about these decisions and I called on the Israeli government to reverse them. The settlements plan, in particular, has the potential to alter the situation on the ground on a scale that threatens the viability of a two-state solution.”

 

WHITE HOUSE JOINS IN: In an unusual departure from its acquiescent and obsequious approach towards Israel, the Obama administration issued a third and fourth consecutive condemnation of the Israel settlement-expanding plan. American officials called the plan “damaging” to the prospects of a two state solution.

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if the US and other Western countries are able and willing to translate their largely verbal objections to Israeli provocations in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank into proactive tangible measures on the ground.

In the past, some of these countries had threatened to impose sanctions on Israel when they felt the latter was going too far in violating international law. However, these countries were eventually forced to retreat due to domestic pressure from pro-Israeli pressure groups, such as in the US Congress, and also due to Israeli stubbornness.

Israeli and Jewish leaders have indicated that they will try to “activate and mobilise” the powerful Jewish lobby in the US and also American Zionist evangelical groups in an effort to force the Obama administration to stop pressuring Israel.

However, American capitulation to Israel on such a highly sensitive issue would be interpreted in the world’s capitals as a de facto US admission that the two-state solution strategy has collapsed and that Israel and its American Jewish allies, not the Obama administration, are the ones calling the shots in Washington.

An American surrender to Netanyahu on this issue would also send an unmistakable message to the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims that it is futile to count on Washington to force or convince Israel to end its decades-old occupation of Arab land.

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