Israeli military forces should cease actions in a West Bank Bedouin community that were apparently intended to displace the residents without lawful justification. The military demolished all homes in the community on September 16, 2013, and blocked four attempts by humanitarian groups to provide shelters, with soldiers using force against residents, humanitarian workers, and foreign diplomats on September 20. Under international humanitarian law in effect in the occupied West Bank, the deliberate unlawful forced transfer of a population is a war crime.
In Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly just two days ago, he outlined two issues as top priorities in the Middle East: Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. After getting distracted by a brief campaign for war in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry is refocused on Israel-Palestine, saying just yesterday that he brokered an agreement to “intensify” negotiations.
The official basis for negotiations is two states for two people. And yet, Israel continues to reject the premise of talks by bulldozing more Palestinian homes and building new illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
As Yousef Munayyer wrote recently in The New Yorker, “Everything about the Israeli state’s actual behavior suggests it has no intention of ever leaving the West Bank.”
So why engage in the charade of negotiations? In an earlier piece at The Daily Beast, Munayyer explains that, “Israel needs negotiations to provide cover for its continued colonization of Palestinian territory and create the impression that its presence in the West Bank is temporary and its withdrawal around the corner.”
“The absence of negotiations,” Munayyer adds, “keeps the light focused on the apartheid reality, instead putting Israel in increasingly hot water as civil society and states continue to reject its subjugation of Palestinians.”
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian legislator and Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, agrees. This week he told reporters that the vaunted Oslo Agreement “allowed Israel [to] implement a system of apartheid, by significantly escalating its settlement activities, and the theft of Palestinian lands, Israel is using the peace deal as a cover-up for its violations.”
The settlement “led to disastrous consequences allowing Israel to divide the occupied territories into areas A, B and C, giving it the change to build and expand settlements, and the Apartheid Wall”, he added. “The wall was build 25 Kilometers deep into the West Bank, isolating and confiscating large areas of lands and orchards, and isolated Jerusalem from its surrounding Arab areas.”
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that these policies undermine negotiations. Indeed, as Munayyer points out, U.S. intelligence agencies figured it out all the way back in 1968, less than a year after Israel began occupying and settling in the West Bank.
A 1968 National Intelligence Estimate said: “If Israel continues to occupy conquered territory for an extended period, say two to three years, it will find it increasingly difficult to relinquish control. Domestic pressures to establish paramilitary settlements in occupied areas would grow, and it would be harder to turn back to the Arabs land which contained such settlements.”