Sunday, September 11, 2016

Since publication of "Quartet" report Israeli settlement building has soared.

Israeli settlement expansion has surged in the two months since a diplomatic Quartet report called for a halt to the construction of Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestine.

The Quartet, the U.S., Russia, EU and UN, urged Israel to cease building settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians but at the same time urged the Palestinians to cease incitement to violence. The incitement to violence often comes from Israeli actions as well. The Quartet recommendations are hardly new as the demand to cease settlement building was made in a February report as well. Indeed, the demand goes back as far as 2001 and the Mitchell Report: * The GOI should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural growth" of existing settlements. " GOI stands for Government of Israel. In 2001 there were approximately 200,000 settlers living in the West Bank but now the number has almost doubled to 380,000.
As with earlier reports, the appeal to cease settlement building has fallen on deaf ears as the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, reported to the UN Security Council: "Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions." The Quartet report was to serve as a foundation for reviving the peace talks which collapsed back in April 2014 after a U.S. initiative. Instead an increase in the number of Jewish settlements being constructed makes any prospects of restarting talks and reach a deal less likely. Indeed the growth in settlements makes a two state solution increasingly doubtful.
Mladenov said that since July 1, Israel advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank. Israel regards east Jerusalem as part of Israel although not recognized internationally. As well, PM Netanyahu's government has also tendered for 323 units to expand east Jerusalem settlements. It is also allocating $13 million in new funding to build 42 units in Kiryat Arba near Hebron. Israel is also surveying land on Bethlehem's outskirts for an entirely new settlement that Mladenov claims would contribute to the "dismemberment of the southern West Bank." At the same time as settlements are expanded, demolitions of Palestinian homes are increasing with over 130 structures destroyed since July 1.
Netanyahu has long argued that settlement building is not an obstacle to peace. He often points out that when there was a halt to settlement building there was not a peace deal but war. However, no one argues that halting settlement building is a sufficient condition for reaching a peace deal. It is simply one of several necessary conditions. Netanyahu's argument does not show that stopping the settlement construction is not required for a peace deal. The UN Security Council declared in a resolution way back in 1979 that the Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal. However, this has done nothing to stop Israel from building more.
Israel continued to insist the settlement building was not an obstacle to peace. David Keyes, spokesperson for PM Benjamin Netanyahu said:“it is not the presence of Jews, who have lived in the West Bank and Jerusalem for thousands of years, that is a barrier to peace. Rather, it is the unceasing efforts to deny that historical connection and a refusal to recognize that Jews are not foreign to Judea.
The claim that it is illegal for Jews to build in Jerusalem is as absurd as saying Americans can’t build in Washington or the French can’t build in Paris. The Palestinian demand to ethnically cleanse their future state of Jews is outrageous and should be condemned by the United Nations instead of being embraced by it.”
This just assumes that east Jerusalem is part of Israel. The overwhelming majority of nations regard the settlements as illegal, as built upon occupied territory, and there is no international recognition of Israeli annexation of east Jerusalem. The continued settlement expansion means there will be less and less land available for any Palestinian state.


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