Settlement Announcements Shows Israel Isn’t Interested in Negotiations

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Seconds before the bell rings in a professional boxing match, the two contenders meet in the center of the ring and touch gloves. Imagine what would happen if one of them used that brief opportunity of goodwill to headbutt the other. Everyone would call foul and the referee would stop the fight, possibly penalizing the aggressor.

Except that seems to be pretty much what Israel has done in the lead up to U.S.-brokered negotiations. While it’s true that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dropped his demand for a freeze in Israeli settlement construction as a precondition for talks, Israel’s announcement on Sunday that it’s constructing more than 1,000 new housing units in Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

BBC:

Palestinians have reacted angrily to Israel’s approval of nearly 1,200 new Jewish settlement homes, just days before peace talks are set to resume.

Palestinian negotiators said the approval cast doubt on Israel’s sincerity in the peace process.

…Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh said Israel aimed “to destroy the basis of the solution called for by the international community, which aims to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders”.

He accused Israel of trying to “determine the negotiations in whichever way suits it best”.

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters: “If the Israeli government believes that every week they’re going to cross a red line by settlement activity, if they go with this behaviour, what they’re advertising is the unsustainability of the negotiations.”

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC: “We believe that Israel is deliberately sending a message to the US, to the rest of the world that regardless of any attempt at launching negotiations, ‘we are going to press ahead with stealing more land, building more settlements and destroying the two-state-solution’.

“This is an extremely dangerous policy, and if left unchecked it certainly would lead to greater conflict and the destruction of all chances of peace.”

The political use of settlement construction here is rather obvious. Israel has used settlement construction in politically motivated ways before. Back in 2010, after Obama had publicly called for a freeze in settlements, Israel unveiled plans for new settlements timed just perfectly for a special visit by Vice President Joe Biden. The move was widely seen as a slight at the U.S.

And those Palestinian representatives quoted above aren’t really speculating about Israel’s intentions. As I noted several weeks ago, citing this Brent E. Sasley piece at Foreign Policy which details the rise to political power of a gang of Israeli leaders explicitly supportive of annexation and openly opposed to a Palestinian state:

…a number of more moderate individuals were dumped and several hardline annexationists were promoted to higher positions on the electoral slate — all but guaranteeing them election to the Knesset and a place in government. Among them, Danny Danon has declared, “I will use my strength and influence to convince as many people as I can within the party…that a Palestinian state is bad news for Israel.” Tzipi Hotovely wrote last year that “the territories of Judea and Samaria [West Bank] are mostly uninhabited…90% of the territory is empty,” which facilitates “the complete application of Israeli law over Judea and Samaria.” Ze’ev Elkin believes in a single state between the river and the sea under Israeli sovereignty.

Yisrael Beiteinu has long been a little more far right; its autocratic leader, Avigdor Lieberman, lives in a West Bank settlement. Lieberman hates Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, calling him “the main and greatest obstacle to peace,” and mistrusts the Palestinians. He would tolerate a rump Palestinian state in the West Bank, but intends on annexing most of it for Israel. His firstreaction to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement on the renewal of talks was that negotiations won’t be conducted on the basis of the 1967 lines, nor would he agree to any settlement freeze. He added, for good measure, that anyway, “Mahmoud Abbas does not represent the people of Gaza or Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”

The coalition includes Jewish Home, a recent amalgamation of religious Zionist parties, with some hardline secular nationalist support. Its leader, Naftali Bennett, is adamantly opposed to the withdrawal of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank; he intends to annex at least all of Area C and control the rest of the territory. Like Lieberman, he insists that negotiating on the basis of the Green Line or freezing settlement building aren’t options; he said that building settlements “brings life.” And he’s threatened to bring the government down if talks get serious. His ministers have reacted even more aggressively: Minister of Housing Uri Ariel called freezing settlements “an immoral and non-Jewish act.”

This latest Israeli snub is a harbinger of things to come: so long as U.S. support is maintained, Israel will oppose substantive negotiations and a Palestinian state.

  • mojo

    Johan when was it when you personally noticed that Israel is "interested" in negotiating anything with Palestinians? 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago when? The only language that Israel will ever understand is for Israeli regime to be boycotted as they boycotted Iraq, or Iran or any other nations that are boycotted by rest of the world, even 50% of the world countries will force Israel to get serious, starting with EU, especially England, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, only thing these government need to do is to stop buying anything from Israel.

    • james

      And stop selling them anything as well until they rot or change.

    • Herb Schaffler

      We could also stop sending them billions of dollars in foreign aid also. That would get their attention.

  • Brad-Smith

    This was my very first thought when the announcement was made. Once again Israel shows that they are not really serious at all.

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  • Hay Sannen

    Good for Israelis, the star of the contemporary wars. Go ahead as long as they have US support. But I dont know what will happen at the end of the tunnel.

    • mojo

      You meant to say: star of concentration camp, here I corrected you.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    I think Israelis are all have good deeds for democracy, to be bold, mimicry democracy. So, the steps to settle a new settlements or defend an old settlements are truly legitimate in that principle. Yes offcourse. As long as they have US support. But I dont know what will happen at the end of the tunnel.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    If the Palestinians fighters are branded by terrorists labelling, the steps are pretty legitimate. They win in diplomatic terms and Mr Kerry is in the crossroad. But do you remember Shakespeare? Can you feel the humanity pulses? Or we are tuning the opposite of humanity at all?

    • mojo

      Can you define democracy to start with, then and after your definition, democracy will answer you what kind of democracy you are talking about. But please don't use the word if you have an apartheid definition of democracy or a falsified one.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    Good Israel, a star of all contemporary wars. Again, it is not a fix glory tunnel. The world is smarter in economic crisis than them.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    Then we can say temporarily, we love and admire you, Israel. "You are the star of the world not the problem of the world". So they will bear the only Law of "U-turn" in normal civilisation.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    The "U-turn" effect depends on the scale of other side's burden. It is truly consistent, especially in Einstein's view.

  • Shlomo Shannen

    Ce'st la vie.

    • mojo

      well ce'st la vie, all right but what a miserable ce'st la vi you people have created for the world and it is the world answering your ce'st la vi by isolating you and don't want to have anything to do with your kind.

  • jtt

    Arafat was the obstacle to peace, he as been dead now for so many years and still Israel is unable to talk peace. what we need is another Arafat.

    • mojo

      What we need is a total Israeli boycott period.

  • byrd_bahls22

    If it looks like a parasite, crawls like a parasite, sounds like a parasite, and drains like a parasite, it is, indeed, a parasite.

  • Mike

    You know, if I was a Jew, Palestinian or whatever I'd sure as hell want to leave that hell hole of a place. What a $#%^* mess!

  • james

    Mike, I think you are an American from your uninformed stupid comment. This place is a mess due to parasites infecting it and due to the total support of your country to this parasite. You are part of the problem and your dumb comments are not welcome here.

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