Posts tagged settlement freeze

Settling Palestine: The ‘latest colonizing adventure’

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The following is an excerpt from a documentary detailing the tactics employed by Jewish settlers in Palestine:

“When a new settlement is established, it must withstand attack from the very first day of occupation. A system of defense has been evolved, in which these experienced settlers play an important part.

“When the proposed site has been marked out, members of the established settlements in the vicinity move off to congregate in the village nearest the scene of the latest colonizing adventure. From all around they come. Men, who have themselves recently made pioneering history, by cars, lorries and wagons, they all move to the (more…)

The fragility of ‘unbreakable bonds’

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The United States’ veto on Friday of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank presented a difficult moment for Washington. The resolution, written to mirror much of the language used by the United States over the years, left the White House with a dilemma of whether it should blindly stand by its friends in Israel or stand behind its long-stated position that settlements are illegal and a serious obstacle to a two-state solution. Additionally, by vetoing the resolution, the Obama administration defied nearly every country represented in the UN and took a risk of isolating itself alongside Israel. While the US continues to provide unwavering support for Israel, it is a mistaken assumption that there is an “unbreakable bond” between the two states. If Washington becomes increasingly isolated (economically or politically) as a result of its support and defense of Israel, the relationship may be in trouble.

Since the late 1960s, the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel has been based on four main points. Firstly, Israel was one of the only Middle Eastern states (more…)

Another day in the conflicted land

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Like most, today was a paradoxical day in Israel’s news cycle. Here are a few of the highlights:

• The largest left-wing demonstration Israel has seen in recent years took place the night before and the media was full of speculation as to whether the Left is experiencing a rebirth of sorts. Yet the issue that has driven the Left for decades – ending the occupation and making peace with the Palestinians – wasn’t on the agenda.

• The world was congratulating the Tunisian people for the potential freedoms gained by overthrowing a dictatorship that has ruled their country for decades. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined the likes of Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Qaddafi in warning that the turn of events represents regional instability and is a threat to peace.

• Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni once again attacked the “moral failure” of Netanyahu for allowing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s enquiry into human rights organizations. However, she made her stand from the moral high ground of Gush Etzion, the home of some of the settlement enterprise’s more extreme elements.

• Finally, The Quartet announced it will meet early next month to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, 1,400 housing units were put up for discussion to be constructed east of the Green Line and in Ramallah the Palestinian Authority announced it will approach the UN Security Council for a resolution declaring that Israel’s settlements are illegal.

Today was nothing out of the ordinary. Nobody expects anything less than contradiction in the Middle East. After all, it is the conflicted land.

Nov 21: Weekend Reading

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Former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurzter, on Sunday, wrote an Op-ed in the Washington Post, criticizing the now almost-certain American incentives package being offered to Israel in exchange for an additional 90-day settlement building moratorium. Kurtzer, who has previously written about settlements vis-à-vis US policy, claims that the deal is a game-changer. The ambassador rightly questions what will happen (when) settlers defy the building ban:

And what about enforcement? Will the United States demand its money back if it learns about construction during the freeze, even if that construction was not authorized by the Israeli government?

Kurtzer continues with his list of reasons the deal is ill-advised. He points out that the “deal will (more…)

The chutzpa of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

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The notion that Jews rule the world has been one of the most detrimental social concoctions the Jewish people have (barely) endured in past millennia. This week, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef seemed determined to prove it correct. Following last week’s marathon talks between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York, Netanyahu returned to Israel in order to present whatever proposal was formulated in the golden apple.

Since Netanyahu’s return, unconfirmed reports of the New York deal’s details have been making their way through the Israeli media. The basic understanding is that in exchange for an additional 90 days of an already-expired and failed settlement freeze, Israel will receive 20 state-of-the-art fighter jets, free of charge; the US will veto any UN resolutions resembling a declaration of Palestinian declaration of statehood; Israel will be permitted to build in East Jerusalem; and the US will not request (more…)

A new US building freeze bid, and a retrospect of American settlement policy

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s full cabinet will meet today later today to discuss the most recent American incentives package, which in a quid pro quo, Israel is asked to freeze construction of settlements in the West Bank for an additional three months. Although it has not been in the news for the past few weeks, the stated goal of the Americans in obtaining another building freeze is to hammer out borders between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If such an agreement on borders is reached, as the American logic goes, there will no longer be any ambiguity as to where it is permissible for Israel to build – only on the western side of the border. However, the arrangement becomes problematic if the two sides are unable to delineate borders by the end of the building freeze.

Construction in Gush Etzion, West Bank

Settlement construction in Gush Etzion, West Bank - CC license - by afps14

I found an article by former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt, Daniel Kurtzer, (written last year) about the history and context of American policy towards Israeli settlements this morning.  In addition to providing a very thorough and well-written explanation of why the settlements are such a big deal, Kurtzer outlines the history of (more…)

Demanding a settlement freeze: Who is undermining the peace talks?

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - by Yoshiko Kusano, WEF - Creative Commons license.

Having discussed how the Israelis never seem to miss a chance at sabotaging the current American-sponsored peace talks, it would be negligent to ignore Palestinian moves that too, risk derailing the chances of a negotiated two-state solution. It is important to remember that just as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has cemented himself into the position that he will not renew the settlement freeze, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is politically unable to back down from his insistence on a renewed building moratorium before he will return to direct talks. By focusing on the issue of settlement construction, Abbas is able to ignore more debilitating barriers to a peace deal such as the schism between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it is looking more and more as if the Palestinian leadership is counting on the current round of peace talks to fail over the settlement issue so that they can attempt to change international political realities by asking world powers to recognize Palestinian statehood or by seeking UN resolutions condemning Israeli actions.

Abbas on Thursday reiterated his threats to seek a resolution in the UN condemning Israeli settlement actions if the building freeze (that expired at the end of September) is not renewed. Although the Israelis would perceived such a move as deliberately-antagonistic, it seems to (more…)

New settlement construction: Who is undermining the peace talks?

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Two large construction plans for over 1,800 housing units east of the Green Line were approved on Monday and Tuesday. The announcements themselves are problematic, but the timing is astonishing considering Netanyahu is currently in the US and scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week for talks to try and save the peace process with the Palestinians. This raises two scenarios: Either the Israeli bureaucracy is deliberately trying to undermine peace efforts or Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself is trying to sabotage the process.

The first scenario is that elements in Israel’s bureaucracy are deliberately trying to embarrass Netanyahu and simultaneously undermine efforts to save the perilous peace talks. In March 2010 when US Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel, the Jerusalem planning commission announced the approval of 1,600 housing units east of the Green Line. The Netanyahu government was embarrassed by the timing of the announcement and publicly declared that it would install additional oversight in order to prevent future embarrassingly ill-timed announcements. However, more announcements of building plans were announced on (more…)

A unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood

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The Palestinian Authority and the Arab world have recently been floating the idea of unilaterally declaring Palestinian statehood in the case that peace talks fail. Seeing as how the talks are looking ever more perilous, an analysis of this scenario – or the likelihood of the PA following through on their threat – seems warranted.

Over one year ago, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad presented a two-year plan to build up the essential infrastructure needed for the establishment of a de facto Palestinian state, and once that is in place, to declare statehood in 2011. Fayyad’s plan received a lot of attention from those observing the conflict (NGOs, journalists, think tanks and analysts), but up until now the plan was dismissed in nearly all official channels. In fact, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas outright rejected the plan in April of this year. However, in this month’s emergency meeting of Arab League ministers on the stalled peace process, Abbas said that if the talks fail, he might ask the UN Security Council, the US or the EU to recognize Palestinian statehood. With Fayyad’s 2011 goal for statehood rapidly approaching, one must ask whether the PA has rethought the (more…)

Obama’s Mess

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President Barack Obama deserves acknowledgement for his efforts to realize a two-state solution, but applause is un-called for. One must begin to question the depth of Obama’s strategy, as his moves in the process seem more and more reactionary. Pressuring Israel to implement a 10-month West Bank settlement freeze was the right move, but waiting until it was nearly expired to make any further moves effectively eliminated any significance it had. Furthermore, the scheduling of peace talks at the same time as mid-term elections may have been inevitable considering the non-stop American political cycle, but it has severely limited his political capital to exert further pressure on the Israelis. As the peace talks he fought so hard to start teeter on the brink of collapse, what does the American president have up his sleeve?

Pressuring Israel to enact a 10-month settlement freeze was perhaps a necessary precursor to renewing the long-stalled peace talks. However, waiting so long to make his next move essentially wasted the momentum created by the freeze and the ensuing public chilling of relations between the US and Israel. By the time the American-sponsored peace summit materialized (and with it, the most optimism the region has seen (more…)

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