Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Israel set for the poll

With Israel continuing to swing to the right, Tel Aviv presses ahead with more settlement building, destroying the possibility of peace, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem

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Al-Ahram Weekly

With less than a month before Israeli elections, scheduled for 22 January, most public opinion polls forecast a big win by right-wing political parties that reject the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

According to the latest projections, right-wing parties, both secular and religious, are expected to win as many as 70 seats in the Knesset, the 120-seat Israeli parliament.

All other parties, including a few and dwindling peace-minded groups, are expected to lose significantly as Israeli Jewish society keeps drifting to the right.

This trend is being further enforced by the growing emigration to Western countries by tens of thousands of middle-class Israeli liberals, fed up with what they say is the transformation of Israel into “an obscurant and intolerant state”.

Roni Shaked, a prominent veteran Israeli journalist expects the next Israeli government to be “probably the most extremist in Israel’s history”. “I am sorry to say that the next government will make any talk about the chances for peace unrealistic. We are about to experience some really tough years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to win a comfortable victory in the upcoming elections, continued to make strenuous efforts to further woo right-wing voters to his camp. Most of these efforts are at the Palestinians’ expense, including recent decisions to build thousands of additional settler units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The ultimate implications of this phenomenal expansion of Jewish colonial settlements will be the demise of the peace process and, using the words of Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, the evaporation of all realistic hopes for peace in the region.

Flying in the face of the international community, including Israel’s guardian ally, the United States, Netanyahu said rather bluntly this week that he didn’t care about international criticism of settlement-expansion plans. “We are building in our capital. It is none of the international community’s business to interfere in this matter,” said Netanyahu during an electioneering tour.

Other Israeli officials have been making even more jingoistic and pugnacious remarks, especially vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

The latest provocation by the Israeli government has been a decision to build 1200 settler units at the Gilo settlement (Jabal Abu Ghneim) near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank. The decision follows a series of other recent decisions to build thousands of settler units all over the West Bank. Including the establishment of a “mega-settlement” between East Jerusalem and the colony of Maali Adumim, four kilometres eastward.

The building of the settlement would separate the northern part of the West Bank from the occupied territory’s southern flank, as well as cut off occupied Arab East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Decisions to expand Jewish settlements have drawn sharp reactions from the international community, including Israel’s Western allies. However, all the criticisms seem to have failed to make the Israeli government rethink its policies.

As the election battle is fought largely between extremists and ultra-extremists, the more virulently anti-peace elements have accused Netanyahu of using the settlement-building spree as an election spin. One of these figures is Aryeh King, who questioned the credibility of Netanyahu’s intentions.

“Netanyahu is running a campaign that places Jerusalem at the centre of public discourse. Netanyahu is trying to lie to the public and present a false picture in which he is building and widening the city, but in actuality the facts are opposite.”

 

ENFORCING EXISTING SETTLEMENTS: When speaking to Western media, Israeli officials claim the frantic spree of settlement expansion has little or no impact on peace prospects with the Palestinians. In a brazen disregard for realities on the ground, Netanyahu has been urging the world community to force the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table instead of fulminating against Israel for meeting the housing needs of its citizens.

Palestinian officials retort by arguing that Israel is practicing deception and lies. “Every honest person knows that Netanyahu is lying and playing with words. He is urging the world to pressure us to return to the negotiating table. What negotiating table is this man talking about? I am afraid that there will soon be nothing left to negotiate about if Israel carries out its plans to expand settlements.

“The world should pay attention to what is happening on the ground, not to what Netanyahu and [Israel’s outgoing Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman are saying. These people have no credibility whatsoever,” said PA official Saeb Ereikat.

The Palestinian leadership, frustrated by the international community’s powerlessness to rein in Israel’s recalcitrance, received still more bad news as the Israeli government decided this week to upgrade the status of a small settlement college near Nablus into a university.

The decision means that the institution will receive significant funding from the government.

The upgrading of Ariel College also sends an unmistakable message to the international community that true peace with the Palestinians, eg one based on ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, is not really on the Israeli national agenda, notwithstanding all political babble.

British Foreign Minister William Hague has condemned the move hinting that the upgrading of the college might have negative repercussions on academic ties between Israel and Britain. “The move would further entrench the presence of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and create an additional barrier to peace with the Palestinians.”

Notwithstanding, it is unlikely that Western criticism of Israel’s settlement policy will cause a dent in the intransigent Israeli posture, especially as Netanyahu is expected to emerge even stronger after the 22 January elections.

Meanwhile, the PA leadership, which is coming under intense public pressure, is vowing to resort to “unorthodox measures” in case Israel continues to defy the world.

Pundits in occupied Palestine say these warnings imply that the PA might embark on the dissolution of the self-rule entity and the return to the pre-Oslo Accords situation — eg direct Israeli military occupation.

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