Israeli settlements remain a stumbling block to peace

The Americans should put forward their peace plan if they have one.
Sunday 25/02/2018
An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors in Jerusalem’s Old City, last July . (Reuters)
Major impediment. An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors in Jerusalem’s Old City, last July . (Reuters)

Israel recently began to install houses in the first new settlement formally approved by Tel Aviv since 1991. News of the activity at the settlement is a sign of the change that Israel’s settlers see in the current international climate, especially in the United States. It is a licence to flout international law. In the words of prominent settler leader Yaakov Katz: “We are changing the map. The idea of the two-state solution is over. It is irreversible.” (See related story on Page 11 of this issue of The Arab Weekly.)

It is obvious the Israeli right wing is driving the agenda to end, once and for all, any prospect for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As former US President Jimmy Carter has warned, the two-state formula “is being overtaken by a one-state reality.” However, there really is no other game in town even as Palestinian and Israeli pluralities despair at the prospects for a two-states-for-two-peoples solution.

It’s obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not mind settlers exploiting tensions between the United States and the Palestinian Authority by annexing settlements in an area that accounts for more than 60% of Palestinian territory. It’s not hard to understand the reasons for Palestinian alarm with “West Bank Jewish Population Stats,” a report sponsored by the prominent settler organisation Bet El Institutions, saying the population of existing settlements is growing at double the rate of Israel.

In recent days, US President Donald Trump expressed doubt that Israelis and Palestinians are “looking to make peace” and yet the Trump administration has not rescinded its assurance that an “Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative” is in the works. It is time it made good on that promise.

The Americans should put forward their peace plan if they have one. Israelis, too, must assume responsibility for those who live under Israeli occupation. This is not to assign individual guilt but to recall the obligations of our shared humanity.

As Israeli human rights lawyer and political activist Michael Sfard recently wrote in the Haaretz newspaper: “As Israelis, we are all responsible for the realm of occupation, even if we do not man the checkpoints, live in settlements or hand out permits… Collective responsibility is the moral responsibility society bears for external actions carried out by the collective. It derives from belonging and also from partnership.”

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