What Was Said: Israeli Settlements in West Bank

The occasion of President Obama’s trip to Israel has triggered a number of different articles across Web news media. Remarkably, the topic continues to center on one issue – the ever expanding Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank territory. Now some will take exception to the notion of Palestinian West bank territory despite the many UN resolutions in Palestine’s favor on the subject, so that is why the topic appears to be issue number one in US  and Israeli relations.

the map on the left shows the problem of Jewish settlement in Palestinian territory. The settlements are defacto annexations of West Bank territory since they become areas where political rule and policing is by Israelis. In fact there are several Palestinian areas that are governed by Palestinians but policed by Israeli forces. This is is the inherent contradiction in Israel/Palestine right now.

The Economist in this article describes the demographic and contradictions in the West Bank as Israelis pursue slow annexation and a new One-State solution.

Academic gatherings, such as a conference last year at Harvard to discuss the one-state option, have yet to put flesh on the idealists’ notions. Would a federal framework provide for separate assemblies? What sort of army and police would there be? Would, as Mr Gavron’s book suggests, the Jews have to drop their Law of Return (allowing any diaspora Jew to become a citizen) and the Palestinians likewise have to drop their Right of Return (letting all refugees and their descendants back)? Few have begun to address such nettlesome questions, because in truth, few see a one-state outcome as a true goal. Most come to it out of exhausted despair or amiable fantasy.

Israel, as Mr Netanyahu must know, cannot remain both democratic and Jewish if it continues to control several million Palestinians without granting them full political rights. At the same time, he dreads the encirclement of hostile Arab states around him, and frets that America, under Barack Obama, may fail to make good on its promise to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile he lamely repeats the old mantra that “there is no Palestinian partner for peace.”

Quite possibly he does not know what he should, can or will do. Had Mitt Romney won the American presidency, he might have given Mr Netanyahu a fillip. Mr Obama has no such desire. Instead, he will repeat to the Israeli leader what Mr Netanyahu has almost said but cannot bring himself fully to endorse—that there is no serious alternative to a two-state deal.

Here is what has been said:

Tom Friedman  NYTImes Opinion Section.

President Obama should ask …“Please tell me how your relentless settlement drive in the West Bank does not end up with Israel embedded there — forever ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians with a colonial-like administration that can only undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy and delegitimize Israel in the world community? I understand why Palestinian dysfunction and the Arab awakening make you wary, but still. Shouldn’t you be constantly testing and testing whether there is a Palestinian partner for a secure peace? After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multi-religious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you. Everyone is focused on me and what will I do. But, as a friend, I just want to know one thing: What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?”

Hussein Ibish – the DailyBeast – Of Course Settlements Are Illegal

One of the most tiresome things about a long-term engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the endless need to push back against those who insist on living in a more pleasurable but entirely fictive alternate reality. For many on both sides, the realities on the ground, or the legal and political facts, are simply too painful or disruptive to be acceptable. So they neurotically retreat into an alternate universe in which everything feels better.

There are innumerable examples of this on the Palestinian side, but among hard-core supporters of Israel, one of the most persistent imaginary realities is that there is no occupation and/or Israeli settlement activity is not prohibited by international law.

The reason this is such a persistent shibboleth of hawkish pro-Israel propaganda is that occupying powers are bound to abide by the extensive international law and treaty obligations delineating the rights and responsibilities that accrue to this status. And the problem is that so much of what Israel has been doing in the occupied Palestinian territories is in direct and undeniable contravention of international law.

Salon.com – UN panel: Israeli settlements in West Bank break International law

The United Nations’ first report on the broad policy of Israeli settlements concluded Thursday that the government’s practice of “creeping annexation” clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians, and called for an immediate halt.

In its report to the 47-nation Human Rights Council, a panel of investigators said Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the treaties that establish the ground rules for what is considered humane during wartime.

The Israeli government has persisted in settling Palestinian-occupied territories, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank, “despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation,” the report said.

The settlements are “a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” it concludes.

French judge Christine Chanet, who led the panel, said Israel never cooperated with the probe, which the council ordered last March. At a news conference, she called the report “a kind of weapon for the Palestinians” if they want to take up their grievances before The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Christian Science Monitor – Joshua Mitnick – Israel takes the heat for busing segregation. Shades of Rosa Park.

The Afikim Bus No. 210 pulled up to a stop outside the main shopping mall in this Tel Aviv suburb on its maiden run from Israel to the West Bank on Monday, but for unsuspecting Israelis who tried to board the driver had a swift interdict.

“You cannot come on this bus.”

That’s because the 210 line is one of two new buses that are effectively Palestinian-only. Israel’s transportation ministry added the buses with an eye to shuttling those with work permits to and from West Bank road blocks and Israeli cities. The government says the new subsidized lines are the first of many meant to ease transportation for tens of thousands of day laborers and make it more affordable.

Palestinians and human rights advocates see it as an attempt to institute a segregated bus system to separate Israeli settlers from Palestinian neighbors who routinely find themselves side by side on commutes at the end of a day of work inside of Israel.

As more Palestinians have been allowed back to jobs inside Israel following the uprising in the first part of the last decade, there has been growing tension on buses. Settlers allege they are getting left behind at bus stops because their seats are taken by Palestinians, while Palestinians complain that Israeli police have removed them from buses at the settlers’ behest and made to return on foot.

Carol Williams – LATimes – Europeans Warn That Israel Undermines Own Security With Settlements

As Israel pursues an expanded settlement agenda in Palestinian territory, even its friends are beginning to sound like its adversaries.

The European Union issued a damning report this week, calling the Israeli government’s construct-and-control strategy “the biggest single threat to the two-state solution” aimed at bringing peace to one of the Middle East’s most violence-prone regions. And for the first time in its annual evaluation of Israeli settlement policy, the 27-nation bloc that is Jerusalem’s most important trading partner hinted at a possible boycott of goods produced on illegally occupied land.

The criticism isn’t expected to have much influence with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even as he is forced to negotiate with more moderate Israeli political leaders to build a new coalition after the fractured Jan. 22 election.

But the EU report could provide a supportive backdrop during President Obama’s visit to Israel this month if the White House wants to use the occasion to urge an end to provocative actions that could scuttle prospects for a lasting peace.

John Reed – Financial Times – EU backs cutting support for Jewish settlements

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An internal EU report recommends curbing trade, investment and tourism in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in a sign of further hardening of diplomatic attitudes against Israel’s policy in occupied Palestinian territory.

The report urges member states to ensure that products manufactured in settlements, such as fruit and vegetables, are clearly labelled and do not benefit from the preferential trade treatment due other Israeli goods.

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The report, prepared by EU diplomats based in Israel and seen by the Financial Times, also urges members to “prevent, discourage and raise awareness about the problematic implication of financial transactions” in Jewish settlements.

It suggests, for example, that EU tour operators follow “voluntary guidelines” to avoid supporting settler-owned businesses in occupied east Jerusalem.

“Israel is actively perpetuating its illegal annexation of east Jerusalem by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence through restrictive zoning and planning,” the report says.

In summary, as President Obama goes to Israel, he comes armed with a growing American and European resistance to the slow annexation of the West Bank by Israeli settlements that appears to be the Israeli governments de facto policy – changing a two state solution into a one-state that would create an Apartheid-like Israeli state where Palestinians would be second class citizens as they currently are on the West Bank and in the buses, travel and other movements. In short, after many humiliating rejections by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama may very well be able to ask Tom Friedman’s telling question “What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?”

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