Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The 10-month Settlement “freeze”: Yet another Israeli Charade




First approve hundreds of building projects, then announce a “freeze” excluding the approved projects!

Today, the Israeli government announced a 10-month settlement “freeze”. This freeze excludes occupied East Jerusalem, which Netanyahu referred to as “our sovereign capital”, and applies only to new residential building permits. Public building projects such as schools are also excluded from the freeze, and according to Haaretz:
“The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories” (http://tinyurl.com/yah5gfs)

In a news conference following the Israeli cabinet meeting, Netanyahu told reporters that:
“When the period of freeze ends my government will return to the previous policy of building in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, using the Jewish name for the occupied West Bank.” (http://tinyurl.com/yjqpjr7)
Barak, on the other hand, appealed to the terrorist settlers, who attack Palestinians day and night, and whose Rabbis endorse and call for killing non Jews, saying:
“I hope that the Yesha [council of settlements] leadership, which is patriotic, responsible and serious, will understand the need for the decision at this time,”. (http://tinyurl.com/yah5gfs)

The banality of this 10-month settlement “freeze” is clear, knowing that Israel had already approved enough construction projects in the illegal settlements to last much longer that the 10-month period. Add to that: what is the use of a 10-month freeze, or a 1 year freeze or even a 10 year freeze, when this “freeze” excludes occupied Jerusalem, excludes “public building” and is only temporary? Settlements are illegal PERIOD! Existing settlement should be dismantled and not their expansion “stopped for 10 months”.

Last week, news agencies reported that the Israeli government had given final approval for the construction of 900 settlement units in the illegal Gilo settlement in Bethlehem. These units are
part of the 3,000 units scheduled to be constructed in the coming months in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, (http://tinyurl.com/yj4krj2)
Gilo, with its 35,000 illegal settlers, is built on lands belonging to Beit Jala, Beit Safafa and Budrus.

This comes as part of a larger package; the Israeli government and the Israeli Jerusalem municipality have approved the expansion of at least twenty settlements in East Jerusalem. In addition, hundreds of developments on private land are being expanded as well, (http://tinyurl.com/yj4krj2)
and plan building seven huge settlement suburbs in occupied Jerusalem with thousands of settlements units to accommodate tens of thousands of Jewish settlers. According to IMEMC
…. The Israeli plan, prepared by the government and the Jerusalem Municipality, reveals that the newly declared plan for constructions in Gilo settlement is only one of seven even bigger plans. The seven plans for settlement construction are;
1. Gilo; 900 new units to be added to the already existing 800 units, home to 35.000 settlers (
more than 4000 units still waiting approval).
2. Nof Tzion; cornerstone places Wednesday, 107 planned units to be added to 70 existing units.
3. Moscowvitch settlement neighborhood; in Jabal Al Mokabbir, it carries the name of a Jewish millionaire who heavily finances settlement activities
(and would include hundreds of settlement units).
4. Neighborhood 1, planned 3500 units, it includes the biggest Israeli police station.
5. Shepherd Hotel; in Sheikh Jarrah, annexed by Israeli settlers who are planning to demolish it to construct 350 units.
6. Pisgat Zeev; east of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, currently home to 12.000 settlers.
7. Qalandia, a large settlement neighborhood east of the Qalandia airport, Israel started constructing 80 units as a first phase.
(http://tinyurl.com/ykfzfxn)

The charade is complete with Netenyahu’s claim that this is another step that
will enable us to show the world this simple truth: The Government of Israel wants to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter into negotiations and is very serious in its intention to advance peace.” (http://tinyurl.com/yah5gfs)

The news about the “freeze” will of course be received with “welcome”, “relief” and “praise of the Israeli efforts”. As usual there will be talk about the myth of “unprecedented concessions” made by Israel, forgetting or more accurate: ignoring the fact that these settlements are illegal according to international law and that Israel is doing the Palestinians no favor by freezing such illegal activities. Others will commend Israel, greet this “gesture” and talk about Israel’s wish for peace and how it is dying to return to the negotiating tables. There will also be talk about the “ball being in the Palestinian and Arab court” and that Palestinians and Arabs MUST take steps to prove their good will and “repay Israel for this great sacrifice”. Pressure will be placed on the Palestinians and the Arabs to make concessions, again ignoring the fact that Israel MUST stop all settlement activities and not be begged to do that and then praised for it. And if Palestinians and Arabs do refuse this joke of a proposal on the basis that it doesn’t change a thing, they will accused by politicians and the media in the US and Europe of not really wanting peace, of being the real obstacle to peace. But the fact that Netanyahu and the Israeli government had approved one settlement expansion after the other the last couple of weeks does not constitute an obstacle to peace. It was only some days ago when French foreign minister Kouchner declared that the Gilo settlement expansion would not hinder peace.
French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, claimed Wednesday that the Israeli plan to construct hundreds of homes in Gilo settlement, near Bethlehem, would not hinder the peace process…. He said that he believes that expansion plan is not political in nature and should not be an obstacle to peace. Yet, he failed to mention that Gilo, as well as all Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, are illegal and violate the International Law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions. (http://tinyurl.com/ycgf448)

The fact that Kouchner is actually repeating what the Israeli government says, i.e. settlements are no obstacle to peace, just makes one wonder whether he has a dual citizenship; a French and an Israeli. Doesn’t Mr. Kouchner know that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian Territory according to international law? Does he know that the Gilo settlement is actually built on Bethlehem lands confiscated by Israel? And if building illegal settlement on occupied land is not a political thing, what is it then?

Netanyahu called this charade a “far-reaching and painful step toward peace”, adding that the Palestinians should do the same. What does he want us to do? Give up East Jerusalem as thank you for freezing illegal settlement activities for 10 months? Tell him he can take 60% of the West Bank and that we would be grateful to get the remaining 40%?

And in the mean time, Israel continues expanding its illegal settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.

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