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This is the answer. Outmanoeuvred in the UN, Israel has huffed and puffed against the house that is the international community and taken the policy of increasing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the corridor of land termed E1 out of cold storage. The air of desperation is palpable. The Palestinians, having gotten the crumbs of non-observer status at the UN in an overwhelming vote, have stirred Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his government into violent action. Since they can’t launch an invasion in protest or initiate another wave of assassinations against the Palestinian moderates, they are left with a policy of unmitigated anger.
The plans for constructing settlements on E1, a policy that will connect Jerusalem with Maaleh Adumim, would effectively divide the northern and western West Bank. Should that occur, a contiguous Palestinian state would be dealt a blow even before its formal creation (Al Bawaba News, Dec 4). The structure for defeating such a move is effectively being laid. Of those 20 or so Palestinian communities that are slated for forced evictions, 2300 are mostly Jahalin Bedouin.
Such tactics are true to form. On November 3, 2011, after the admission of the Palestinians to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Israeli authorities announced that 2000 new units would be built in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank settlements of Efrat and Maaleh Adumim.
On November 15 that same year, the Ministry of Housing published tenders for 2,230 new housing units beyond the Green Line (Amnesty International News, Dec 3). Each step the Palestinians take on their treacherous road to statehood is marred by Israeli efforts to subjugate and quash them.
Several states have been riding the carousel of moral outrage and concern, taking Israel to task in press releases and notes. Even an otherwise meek Australia, quiet in the shadows of US power, was keen to make its views felt on the Israeli moves. Foreign Minister Bob Carr felt that these actions would “enormously complicate the prospects for resuming negotiations between the two sides.”
What of it? At the end of the day, calling ambassadors for discussions in various world capitals to chide Israel is not something that has, or will have any effect. The Israeli diplomatic service is well versed in such rituals – Israeli policy waxes and wanes in the international arena, but the point ultimately remains this: that the settlements are not going to stop until the will in Israel exists to do so. Israel’s settlement policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been staple policy for some time, with its discriminatory practices on regimes of law (military for the Palestinians; civilian for the Israelis) and the illegal transfer of its own citizens into Palestinian territory.
The views of such individuals as Carlo Strenger, writing in Haaretz, help to outline the polarised nature of the debate. For Strenger, Netanyahu persists in behaving “in a way that profoundly contradicts the values of the club of the Free World, of which he wants to be a valued member”. Trampling on the rights of Palestinians suggests that continued membership of such a club is bound to be awkward.
A two-state solution is the great rhetorical device – it hovers like Banquo’s ghost, but has little utility to proceedings. God forbid that it might actually ever be real. What settlement construction does, according to Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director, is cause “forced displacement, a myriad of human rights violations and is a flagrant violation of international law” (Amnesty International News, Dec 3).
The Palestinian-Israeli dispute has been the subject of diplomatic theatre for decades. Action on such a policy as settlement, coerced or otherwise, has been minimal. Besides, the January 22 election date looms, and Netanyahu has no intention of losing it. The propulsion of Israeli policy, for that reason, will be to the right, however spectacularly wrong it might be deemed in other circles.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org