Palestine: Zionist settlement building accelerates

Since the US-brokered direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) went into a prolonged delay after 26 September, Israel has, in a typically arrogant and racist manner, accelerated its illegal settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The talks broke down after Israel refused to renew its so-called freeze on settlement building in the West Bank, which ended on 26 September, a freeze which did not include East Jerusalem, public buildings or construction work that had already begun in the West Bank. The level of Palestinian opposition to the talks meant that Abbas and the PA were forced to declare that direct talks could not restart until, as a minimum, Israel agreed a further freeze on settlement construction. Bob Shepherd reports

The frenzied programme of settlement construction that followed the ending of the building freeze demonstrates the contempt that Netanyahu, the Israeli government and the settlers hold for Abbas and the Palestinian people. The Israeli group Peace Now reports that within six weeks Israeli settlers had started to build 1,629 housing units in 63 separate settlements in the West Bank, nearly as many as the 1,888 built in the whole of 2009. Netanyahu declared that the new construction ‘has no real effect on the map of a possible agreement’. From the Zionist point of view this is correct as Israel has no intention of ever voluntarily giving up settlements in the West Bank, and it is backed up by US assurances that the main settlement blocks will stay within Israel.

On 14 October the Israeli press reported that Netanyahu had approved plans for the construction of 240 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. On 8 November Israel published plans to build a further 1,300 new housing units. Responding to international criticism of the announcement, the Israeli government restated its position that East Jerusalem is part of Israel and it has an absolute right to build there: ‘Israel sees no link between the peace process and its development plans in Jerusalem.’

On 11 November US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Netanyahu in New York, where she attempted to persuade him to announce a new settlement building freeze in order for the peace talks to restart. For the US it is crucial that some progress is made in the talks as Obama is making every effort to rebuild the US’s image in the Middle East and wider Islamic world. If the talks collapse it will not be just Abbas who is humiliated. Reassuring Israel of US imperialism’s continued backing, Clinton declared that Israel’s future security needs would be ‘fully taken into account’ in any peace deal with the Palestinians. Their joint statement at the end of the day emphasised the US’s ‘unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and peace in the region’.

On 14 November Netanyahu presented the outcome of his talks with Clinton to the Israeli Cabinet. In return for announcing a new 90-day freeze in settlement construction in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, the US gave the following guarantees:

  • To commit itself to not ask for any further freeze in settlement construction.
  • Over the next 12 months to veto any anti-Israel motion at the UN Security Council and oppose any moves to force a political settlement on Israel, to delegitimise or deny Israel’s right to self defence in any other international forum.
  • To ask the US Congress to approve 20 additional F-35 fighter planes for Israel worth $3 billion.
  • To sign a security agreement with Israel after any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is agreed.

On 17 November the US officially informed Abbas and the PA of the diplomatic and security pledges it had made to Israel in return for a 90-day freeze in settlement construction. There were no reciprocal pledges or guarantees made to Abbas. If he doesn’t attend talks when summoned by the US, a $150 million grant to the PA that Clinton announced on 10 November may be withdrawn. During 2010 the PA has received $225 million directly from the US plus $102.5 million earmarked for ‘security and the rule of law’. This is the security and rule of law that has seen the PA security thugs arrest and torture hundreds of Hamas supporters in the West Bank since the start of the direct talks, and liaise with Israeli occupation forces in the arrest and detention of resistance activists. Israel is so confident of the pro-imperialist Quisling role that the PA is now playing that it has handed over all security responsibilities in Nablus to the PA.

In Gaza the siege continues, with Israel still preventing building and construction material from passing through the border crossings. According to official data there are about 3,500 families who remain homeless since Israel’s destructive assault on Gaza ended in January 2009. A large number of these people are forced to live in tents with only a small number of new homes being built over the past 18 months. Recently-published Israeli documents show how the Zionists have calculated exactly the dietary needs of the people of Gaza to ensure that they were allowed just enough food not to die of starvation. ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger’ (Israeli spokesperson Dov Weisglass following the Hamas election victory in January 2006). That policy continues to this day.

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

 

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