Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Israeli Settlements Expanding

The arrival in Israel of There could be potential friction as U.S. peace envoy and longtime critic of settlement construction George Mitchell, a long time critic of Israeli settlements, arrives in Israel. His visit coincides with a newly released study detailing Israeli settlement expansion.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(Inter Press Service)

Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank increased sharply in 2008, despite Israel’s pledge at the beginning of the year to freeze all construction, according to a new report by an Israeli non-governmental organization.

The report, released Wednesday by the group Peace Now, found that settlement construction in 2008 increased by almost 60 percent, including new construction both inside and outside of the security barrier and within illegal settlement outposts.

The Peace Now study was released on the same day that newly appointed U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell—a longtime critic of settlement construction—arrived in Israel. The increase in construction is expected to be a source of friction in Mitchell’s negotiations with Israeli leaders.

Critics warned that the increase in construction is likely to damage the already fragile prospects for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

"Every structure built in a settlement makes the two-state solution more difficult to achieve and further jeopardizes Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic country," said Debra DeLee, president of Peace Now’s sister organization Americans for Peace Now.

The report found that at least 1,257 new structures were built in West Bank settlements in 2008, up sharply from 800 in 2007. This figure did not include the 261 new structures built in illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Nearly 40 percent of the new structures were built east of the security barrier, many of them extending deep into the West Bank.

And despite the Israeli government’s pledge to crack down on the illegal outposts, the study found that "not a single real outpost was evacuated."

Additionally, the report found evidence that land confiscations were continuing to take place, contradicting the government’s stated policy.

Following the Annapolis peace conference in late 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to freeze settlement construction and remove some existing settlements.

In November 2008, he announced that the government would cut off funding for illegal outposts—thereby admitting that it had continued to fund them up to that point.

The Peace Now report found that the Israeli government had encouraged the increase in settlement construction both through active aid and through non-enforcement of its stated policies.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. envoy Mitchell arrived in Jerusalem and met with leaders including Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in Ramallah, and Likud party chief Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

Although preliminary reports indicated that the aftermath of the war in Gaza was the primary topic under discussion at Wednesday’s meetings, the settlements are expected to be a continued sticking point going forward.

Mitchell served an earlier stint as Middle East peace envoy in 2001, after which his committee released a report that was harshly critical of Israeli settlement policies.

The 2001 Mitchell report called on Israel to "freeze all settlement activity, including the ‘natural growth’ of existing settlements." This call was taken up in the George W. Bush administration’s "road map" for the peace process, which formed the basis of the 2007 Annapolis conference.

Mitchell’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition for the peace process led many right-leaning pro-Israel groups in the U.S. to oppose his recent selection as peace envoy. Abraham Foxman, the influential head of the Anti-Defamation League, stated that he was "concerned" about Mitchell’s "meticulously even-handed" approach to the region.

Nevertheless, in the eight years since Mitchell’s initial report, his calls for a halt to the settlement project have become a mainstream consensus view.

Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon—who had been an original architect of the settlement project—both came to believe that it was likely to doom Israel if left unchecked.

Given the basic demographic trends, an Israeli state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza would soon have an Arab majority. This would force Israel to choose between becoming a secular and bi-national state with full political rights for all citizens, or an undemocratic state that denies full political rights to Arab residents.

It was partially this logic led Sharon to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and remove Israeli settlements there in 2005.

However, the challenge in the West Bank is much greater. There are now estimated to be over 285,000 settlers in the West Bank, many of them militantly opposed to a two-state solution. The Israeli government has generally paid lip service to the goal of curbing the West Bank settlers, but has been reluctant to crack down on them.

If Netanyahu becomes the next Israeli prime minister, as currently seems likely, he and Mitchell could be set to clash on the settlements issue.

Netanyahu has recently tacked to the center on the issue, telling Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Sunday that a Likud-led government would build no new settlements.

However, Netanyahu said that he would continue to permit "natural growth" of existing settlements—a qualification that strips his promise of much of its meaning.

Israel has not officially created any new settlements in over a decade, instead ascribing all settlement construction to "natural growth." It was this consideration that led both Mitchell’s 2001 report and Bush’s road map to explicitly forbid construction under the auspices of "natural growth."

Gershom Gorenberg, author of The Accidental Empire, a 2007 history of the settlements, urged Mitchell to stand firm against Netanyahu in an open letter published Wednesday in The American Prospect.

Netanyahu’s position is a "con," Gorenberg wrote. "You need to insist on [a full settlement freeze] publicly in the months ahead."

At the moment, however, none of the leading candidates for prime minister appears to have much appetite to confront the settlers. How much pressure Mitchell and the Obama administration are willing to exert on the Israeli government to do so will be one of the first tests of the U.S.-Israel relationship in the months ahead.

Daniel Luban writes for the Inter Press Service and is a contributor to PRA’s Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org/).

Citations

By Daniel Luban, "Israeli Settlements Expanding" Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2009). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4979.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share