Monday,19 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Monday,19 March, 2018
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Israel defiant on settlement expansion

Despite gathering international — including European — condemnation, Tel Aviv appears determined to continue building settlements in occupied Palestine, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

Israel has remained more or less defiant in the face of growing international criticism over a controversial plan to build a huge Jewish colony near East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and bulk of the international community are warning that the plan would put an end to hopes for a negotiated settlement, including the prospects of establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

The planned settlement, slated to be built in an area known as E-1 and located between East Jerusalem and the colony of Maale Adumim three kilometres eastward, would nearly completely cut off the West Bank’s northern half from its southern region. Likewise, it would separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territory.

The Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem must be the capital of their aspired-for state. Israel, which seized the city from Jordan during the 1967 war, considers Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided capital” in contravention of international law. The vast majority of the countries of the world, including the US, consider East Jerusalem an occupied city.

Meanwhile, Israel has been launching a counter diplomatic campaign aimed at de-escalating the “confrontation” over the planned settlement expansion. The Israeli media reported that Israeli ministers were instructed to keep a low profile over the issue lest Tel Aviv incur more diplomatic damage to its relations with Western countries.

However, it has been noted that most Israeli ministers, especially those allied with Netanyahu, continue to make defiant remarks pertaining to the planned settlement, which flies in the face of the evolving international consensus over the matter.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is claiming that the world reaction to the settlement-expansion plan is exaggerated and excessive. Netanyahu claimed that the planned settlement would have no effect on the prospects of establishing a viable Palestinian state.

“I don’t understand how this will prevent, territorially, the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Resorting to diversionary and red herring tactics, Netanyahu criticised the “deafening silence” over Hamas, saying the world community should pay more attention to threats to Israel, an apparent allusion to the recent reassertions by the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal that Hamas won’t recognise Israel or cede the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees who were uprooted from their homes when Israel was created in Palestine in 1948.

Many Palestinians argue that it would be self-defeating for a people under occupation to recognise the legitimacy of their occupier and tormentor.

Moreover, Netanyahu tried to downplay the urgency of the crisis over the planned settlement, saying that actual building won’t begin before two years.

Netanyahu’s defensive reflexes, however, seem to have failed to make the international community, let alone the Palestinians, rethink their fierce opposition to the Israeli plan. The Palestinians are in no mood to give in to Israeli pressure, especially after they have achieved a significant morale-booster following the recent recognition by the UN of Palestine as a non-member observer state at the world body.

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas this week warned from Qatar, where he held talks with its Emir, that he would take unprecedented steps if Israel went ahead with its settlement plan. Abbas didn’t spell out what exactly he would do. However, observers speculate that he might be alluding to the possible dismantlement of the Ramallah regime.

Moreover, Abbas’s aide, Saeb Ereikat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, has warned that the window is closing on the two-state solution and US involvement in the peace process. Writing in the US Congress Blog on 10 December, Ereikat argued that as far as the Palestinian issue was concerned, the world community was fast approaching the hour of truth.

“The real challenge the day after (referring to UN recognition) is what the international community, and US in particular, is going to do. As regional and global shifts take place, the window of opportunity is not only closing on the two state solution, but also on the US’s central involvement in the peace process.”


EU DEEPLY CONCERNED: The PA is receiving a preponderance of encouragement and support from many quarters in the international community, including the European Union. European foreign ministers on Monday warned Israel against going through with plans to build the new settlement in East Jerusalem.

The bloc’s 27 ministers said they were deeply dismayed by Israeli plans to expand settlements that would render the establishment of a viable Palestinian state unrealistic if not impossible. “The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank,” the ministers said in a joint statement released following a one-day meeting in Brussels.

The statement emphasised that the Israeli plan would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it would raise serious questions about the viability of the two states that are expected to emerge from the peace process.

Reiterating old platitudes, the statement said the EU believed it was now the time to take “bold and concrete steps towards peace”.

Israeli officials said they were confident EU states won’t take any “proactive measures” against Israel, such as imposing sanctions or imposing excessive taxes on goods produced and manufactured in colonies built in the West Bank. The EU said this week that its trade and other agreements with Israel didn’t cover areas beyond the “green line”, the former armistice line between Israel and the West Bank.

The EU is Israel’s second biggest trade partner after the United States.

WAIT-AND-SEE: Meanwhile, the Obama administration seems to be adopting a cautious wait-and-see posture towards the latest crisis. US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have issued several statements denouncing the Israeli plan as unilateral and damaging to the prospects of reaching a peace deal based on the two state-solution vision.

However, the administration has refrained from sending strong messages to Israel warning it of serious consequences in case the Netanyahu government goes ahead with its contentious plan. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, President Obama is adopting “a new tactic” towards Israel, namely “to stand back and let the world confront Netanyahu”.

The paper quoted US officials as saying they believed President Obama was taking a “benign neglect” approach to scare Israeli leaders into making peace overtures towards the Palestinians.

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