Posts Tagged ‘settlements’

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t)

April 29, 2010

In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”

By Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch.com, April 27, 2010

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange.  For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement.  In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

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US drops demand for Israeli settlement freeze

November 1, 2009
US credibility in the Arab world has suffered a serious setback after Hillary Clinton dropped demands for a halt to Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank
By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem, Telegraph/UK, Nov. 1, 2009

 

Hillary Clinton dropped demands for a halt to Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank

 

Hillary Clinton dropped demands for a halt to Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank Photo: AFP

Signalling an end to the brief flirtation with the Palestinian cause, the US secretary of state flew to Jerusalem to voice full American support for Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an effort to repair badly strained US-Israeli relations, she heaped praise on Mr Netanyahu, lauding his offer to limit settlement construction – even though it falls well short of President Obama’s original demands.

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Obama’s peace effort has failed but our struggle continues

September 25, 2009

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 24 September 2009

US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in a kitschy reprise of the famous 1993 White House lawn handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. (MaanImages)

There is the old joke about a man who is endlessly searching on the ground beneath a street light. Finally, a neighbor who has been watching him asks the man what he is looking for. The man replies that he lost his keys. The neighbor asks him if he lost them under the streetlight. “No,” the man replies, pointing into the darkness, “I lost them over there, but I am looking over here because here there is light!”

The intense focus on the “peace process” is a similarly futile search. Just because politicians and the media shine a constant light on it, does not mean that is where the answers are to be found.

The meeting hosted by US President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on 22 September signaled the complete and terminal failure of Obama’s much vaunted push to bring about a two-state solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

To be sure, all the traditional activities associated with the “peace process” — shuttle diplomacy, meetings, ritual invocations of “two states living side by side,” and even “negotiations” — will continue, perhaps for the rest of Obama’s time in office. But this sterile charade will not determine the future of Palestine/Israel. That is already being decided by other means.

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‘Netanyahu to okay new West Bank homes before declaring freeze’

September 4, 2009

Haaretz/Israel, Sep 4, 2009

By Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before he declares a moratorium on building in those locales, according to a senior government source.

The source from the prime minister’s bureau said last night that Netanyahu informed U.S. officials of his decision to authorize the construction a few weeks ago.

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How settlements in the West Bank are creating a new reality, brick by brick

August 25, 2009

Continuing our series of exclusive reports, we look at how Israel’s growing infrastructure in the region threatens not just the form but the very possibility of a future Palestinian state

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem

Guradian.co.uk, August 24, 2009

There is a hilltop east of Jerusalem with striking views down into Jericho, across the dry slopes of the West Bank and on to the Dead Sea. From the red ochre of the rock came the name Ma’ale Adumim, Hebrew for the Red Ascent.

Today it is a city of more than 30,000 people, with red-roofed apartment blocks, shopping malls, a public swimming pool and ancient olive trees sitting on neat roundabouts. A major highway runs down the hill, across the valley up into the centre of Jerusalem and beyond, connecting conveniently to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean coast.

The rise of Ma’ale Adumim captures the success of Israel‘s vast settlement project and the extent of the challenge posed to any future Palestinian state by the settlements and the often overlooked infrastructure of Israel’s occupation.

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Israel: Ethnic Cleansing as a State Policy

July 3, 2009

By Nicola Nasser | ZNet, July 3, 2009

Nicola Nasser’s ZSpace Page

In his speech at Bar Ilan University on June 14, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a new Israeli “peace plan,” with preconditions that a Palestinian negotiator must first meet before he would “promptly” engage in “unconditional” bilateral talks to meet an international consensus demanding the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. His preconditions added to the fourteen conditions the former Israeli government of comatose Ariel Sharon attached to Israel’s adoption in grudge of the 2003 Road Map blueprint for peace with the Palestinian side, on the basis of which the U.S. administration of President Barak Obama and his presidential envoy George Mitchell are now urging an early resumption of “immediate” Israeli – Palestinian peace talks, which Mitchell on June 26 hoped “very much to conclude this phase of the discussions and to be able to move into meaningful and productive negotiations in the near future.”

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Quartet urges settlement freeze

June 27, 2009
Al Jazeera,   June 27, 2009

Ban called on Israel to stop expanding settlements, including those increasing from ‘natural growth’ [AFP]

The international Quartet on Middle East peace has called on Israel to halt Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories and open border crossings as a first step to advance peace.

The Quartet, comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations, made the appeal on Friday in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste.

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Obama Presses Israel on Settlements, but Their End Isn’t in Sight

June 26, 2009
by William Pfaff, Antiwar.com, June 26, 2009

PARIS — The Obama administration’s confrontation with Israel over its colonies inside the Palestine territories began as a test of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s willingness to enter serious negotiations on a Middle Eastern settlement. It actually possesses potential dimensions that few today imagine.

Netanyahu first counted on the Likud and settlement lobbies in Washington to produce, as always in the past, a disingenuous formula that would allow the colonies to continue to expropriate Palestinian land and expand the settlements, while the American government oversaw essentially meaningless negotiations with the Palestinians.

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Same old, same old on Israeli settlements

June 14, 2009

Joel Brinkley | San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s a familiar story: An exceeding popular president with a strong electoral mandate decides soon after taking office that, to advance Middle East peace efforts, he must push Israel to freeze construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“The most significant action Israel could take to demonstrate good faith,” the president says, “would be a settlement freeze.”

As soon as he voices the idea, Israel’s prime minister publicly refuses. Within weeks, reporters discover that settlers are putting up even more new West Bank homes, in defiance of the president’s request. The White House expresses irritation, and the matter passes.

The episode just described took place in 1983, early in the Reagan administration. But look at the early years of almost any administration over the past 30 years, and you’ll discover a similar effort and similar disappointing results. President Jimmy Carter was an outspoken critic of settlements. Shortly after leaving office, he declared: “Settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace.” At that time, 23,000 Israeli Jews lived in West Bank settlements.

Now it’s President Obama’s turn. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” Obama told an appreciative audience in Cairo this month. “The construction violates previous agreements.”

Well, Mr. President, I wish you luck. You’ll need it.

Why can’t the president of the United States, who authorizes an annual gift to Israel of at least $3 billion, persuade any Israeli government left, right or centrist to stop building settlements? The settlements violate international law, and Israel has agreed, more than once, to freeze settlement growth. The European Union, the United Nations and many other individual states have all inveighed against settlements. No other nation anywhere in the world endorses Israel’s settlement policy. In fact, the majority of Israelis disapprove of continued settlement expansion. And so it has always been.

After Reagan left office, President George H.W. Bush made settlement expansion his signature issue with Israel. At that time, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews were emigrating to Israel, and Jerusalem asked Washington for a $10 billion housing loan.

Bush said repeatedly that Israel would not get the money until it froze settlements. But the prime minister then, Yitzhak Shamir, didn’t even seem troubled.

“Settlement in every part of the country continues and will continue,” Shamir said with his characteristic nonchalant shrug. “They try to link the two things, but no one said aid will end. I don’t think it will happen.”

And he was right. Bush finally relented, late in the 1992 election campaign, when the president feared he could lose the election because he had so angered American Jews and their political allies. And, of course, he did lose.

Shortly after President Bill Clinton took office, in 1993, he cut the loan guarantee by almost 25 percent because Israel was once again refusing to stop new settlement construction. By then, 10 years after Reagan’s effort, 112,000 Israeli Jews lived in the West Bank. After the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, Israel more or less stopped building new settlements but aggressively expanded existing ones.

President George W. Bush, chastened by his father’s loss to Clinton in 1992, chose not to make much of the settlement issue. The White House called the settlements “unhelpful,” and its “road map” for peace called for a settlement freeze. But when Bush took office 177,000 Israeli Jews lived in the West Bank. When he left, the number approached 300,000.

This month, Obama said “part of being a good friend is being honest” with Israel. Well, I would argue that Carter was honest. So were Reagan, Bush and Clinton. On the settlement issue, it did no good.

A week or so ago, TV news recorded Israeli security officers tearing down an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank. That tape got a lot of air play. No one was there with a camera that same evening, NPR reported, when settlers came back and put up even more buildings.

Perhaps Obama will be able to do what none of his predecessors has. Maybe he can persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements and to make peace with the Palestinians. Maybe, though I doubt it. The political costs of following through are too high, and the Israelis know that.

Obama does at least seem to be aware of the risks. Asked this month what the president might do if Israel ignored his request, a White House official pointedly noted that holding back loan guarantees “is not under discussion.”

Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. To comment to him, e-mail brinkley@foreign-matters.com. Contact us at forum@sfchronicle.com.

Israel ministry wages settlement war against U.S.

June 9, 2009

Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
Tess Scheflan

By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent
Haretz/Israel, June 8, 2009
Interior Minister Eli Yishai has begun to make good on a pledge to exploit all the resources of his ministry, “its branches and its influences over local government” to expand settlements in the territories.

Yishai, who is also chairman of Shas, made the promise last Thursday to the heads of the Yesha Council of settlements. His party is concerned by the freeze on construction that has been in effect since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office, which Yishai said is “drying out” the settlements.

Haaretz has learned that Yishai has instructed officials at the Interior Ministry to come up with ways to help the settlers, by allowing continued construction within the major West Bank settlement blocs where building has stopped as a result of American pressure.

Yishai wants to include additional built-up areas within the city limits of towns in the major settlement blocs, effectively expanding those cities’ boundaries. Adjustment of the city limits, which is within the purview of the Interior Ministry, can mean the addition of several square kilometers to a locale’s jurisdiction – or the subtraction of said amount of land.

Yishai thus plans to ensure that city limits will be calculated in as liberal a way as possible, so that construction can eventually take place in the few additional square kilometers, to accommodate the “natural increase” of the population.

In addition, Yishai is hoping to allocate funding from the “interior minister’s reserves” to benefit settlements in the West Bank. These funds, amounting to several tens of millions of shekels, are distributed at the discretion of the minister without having to meet certain usual criteria.

The heads of the Yesha Council said they had the impression from their meeting with Yishai that the minister intended to allocate funding to the settlements from the ministerial reserves to “correct the existing distortion.”

Yishai also plans to change the law mandating special funding for outlying communities, which at present discriminates against the West Bank settlements, in his view. He said he wants to ensure that the law will help the peripheral areas, but will also be altered so as not to be biased.

Settlement discrimination

“Settlements in Judea and Samaria have suffered for many years from various forms of discrimination and distortion. I do not intend to examine the reason or figure out who was responsible for this. I intend to correct the situation. I believe that we do not have to be on a collision course with the Americans,” said Yishai. “There were understandings with previous administrations in the United States that allowed us to build in keeping with the natural increase and certainly within the limits of the settlements.”

He added that, “any steps the United States intends to take in the Middle East will have to be equitable. It is not right to start to enforce the issue of construction and not to make it equitable.”

Yishai was careful not to criticize Netanyahu directly. Rather, he aimed his barbs at the U.S. administration while promoting an independent ministerial policy that benefits West Bank settlement.


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