This week Americans for Peace Now (A very Pro-Obama group) tied to Israel's Shalom Achshav posted an in depth discussion of the settlement freeze (that seems not working out as such a real freeze) by Lara Friedman.
Without the shouting and ridiculous "hand wringing" she breaks down the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of this. Given the events of the last few days (Netanyahu going giving incentives to the settlers, the Mosque descration - which was roundly condemned by the Gov't and so forth), Some of the things she puts on the Balance sheet are coming to pass.
I am glad I got to see this piece - it is a good view from the Israeli side. Well that is the part of the Israeli side that wants PEACE...
Friedman breaks down the "Freeze" into three major parts.
- The Assets
- The Accounts Receivable
- The Liabilities
In this she lists 15 Items to see where they fit.
As "Assets" she lists the following:
- The settlement issue is now on the public agenda in Israel. The Obama Administration's focus on settlements put settlements on the agenda in Israel in a way they have never been before, not even under Bush Senior and the loan guarantees controversy. Settlements today are in the public eye, and Israelis now have a clear sense that supporting settlements is a policy that has very real costs. Indeed, this week Peace Now held a rally outside the Defense Ministry where activists deposited a ton of ice on the pavement, making the point that now is the time to freeze.
- Settlers are on the defensive. Whether or not they are being hurt by the moratorium, settlers - and their leaders and advocates - are very clearly on the defensive, recognizing that for the first time in years, if not ever, they are being forced to justify their existence and the costs they impose on Israel. Settlers are going so far as to accuse the government of acting like Peace Now.
- There is increased (self)-isolation of settlers. Due mainly to their own actions - very public declarations of unwillingness to cooperate with Israeli government officials, increased media reporting on settler law-breaking, including discussion of refusing to serve in the IDF - settlers are increasingly isolated from other Israelis and increasingly the Israeli public's perception is that settlers are a constituency apart for the rest.
- There is unprecedented (yikes!) clarity in the US-Israel relationship. The conflict over settlements has established, at the outset of this administration, a level of clarity between the US and Israel that is without precedent. There is no more game-playing about what either side is really asking or really wants.
- There is unprecedented (yikes!) clarity on US settlement policy. The US and Israel are no longer speaking to each other in "code" where each side understands what it wants to understand and relies on constructive ambiguity to believe what it wants to believe. The myth of enduring US-Israel "understandings" regarding some settlement construction (in settlement blocs, for natural growth, or inside the built-up area of a settlement) has been demolished. This also brings clarity to the Israeli public debate, with the apparent acceptance of the Netanyahu government of the 1967 borders as a starting point for any negotiations (except on Jerusalem).
- East Jerusalem is now on the agenda. The Shepherds Hotel, the Gilo affair, and most recently the EU Middle East Policy document drama, have put East Jerusalem firmly on the agenda - the opposite of what Israel was hoping these controversies would do. It is now clear to everyone that there is no way to proceed without worrying about Jerusalem - effectively taking the wind out of the argument that there are half-measures and shortcuts in the peace process. Some will view this as a complicating factor but they are wrong - it is just another sign of clarity in the peace process discourse: the fact is, the final status issues cannot be broken or dealt with piecemeal.
Then there is the Accounts Receivable section:
- There should be a discernible slowdown in settlement construction. Settlers are complaining they can't build; in reality there is no evidence that this is the case. And evidence that does exist is not encouraging (see below).
- There should be a documented freeze on planning. This has been promised but not yet apparent (of course it is and will be very hard to demonstrate the absence of movement on planning)
- There are some early signs of intent to enforce the moratorium and enforce the law on settlers. Again, it is too soon to judge but there are some encouraging signs: Israel appears to be taking tangible steps to develop a long-needed infrastructure for enforcing the law on West Bank settlers.
- There may be some erosion of settler influence in Israeli government decision-making. Again, it is too early to judge.
Finally there is the Liabilities Section:
1. Settler violations of the moratorium are blatant and discredit the entire moratorium. They include Peace Now's documented evidence of settlers laying fake foundations (in order to get exemption of additional construction by claiming the construction was already underway) and Peace Now's documented evidence of settlers carrying out new infrastructure work (clearing land and digging foundations for new construction). In both cases, settlers were the ones who called Peace Now to report the violations - in response, Peace Now has set up a tip line for settlers.
- Settlers are blatantly defying enforcement personnel, thus far with no real consequences. The appearance thus far that GOI is only going through the motions, tolerating settler defiance of stop-work orders and giving in when settlers refuse to allow inspectors access to settlements. Settlers have accused government of doing the job of Peace Now, implying that the enforcement efforts are illegitimate and they need not cooperate.
- It is still not clear what if anything has actually being frozen. Peace Now's analysis of Israeli numbers indicate that the number of settlement units that could be constructed during the moratorium could be much higher than expected - so high that it could allow growth over next 10 months that would exceed growth in previous years.
- Statements by Israeli officials and politicians indicate that moratorium is not backed by good faith. Each politician is worse than the last. At times it seems as if they are trying to outdo each other with statements proving that the moratorium is absolutely meaningless and backed by only bad faith. Prime Minister Netanyahu keeps offering the settlers "gifts" to keep them happy (granting some settlements national priority area status, announcements of additional "exceptions" like the 492 units that were in fact approved before the moratorium, etc...); Defense Minister Ehud Barak promises settler leaders not to worry - Israel will never relinquish settlement blocs; Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz criticize the moratorium because it includes settlement blocs. Israeli government officials keep repeating that the moratorium will expire in ten months and not be renewed. They keep saying that as soon as it expires Israel will restart building without restraint, regardless of what might be happening in the peace process. For their part, settlers are pressing for illegal construction during the freeze, with some suggesting that after the moratorium expires the construction will be retroactively approved. All this, plus an Israeli effort to revert to pre-Camp David positioning on Jerusalem.
- Israel is refusing to take action to deal with "known" illegal construction (outposts). Notwithstanding the Roadmap, commitments to previous Administrations, and repeated statements from Israeli officials professing the intent to deal with illegal outposts, in the aftermath of the moratorium announcement the Israeli government is still delaying action. They have gone so far to tell the High Court that they cannot take action on outposts because of the burden already placed on the government and law enforcement by the moratorium
So how is the "Freeze Fairing"??? Well Friedmans "balance sheet" pretty accurately configures the discussion. Clearly given their reactions the settlers take things seriously (hence their steps of opposition). Yet it is not clear that the Government takes things seriously. Or rather they are promising everything to everybody. On one side they are sending "inspectors" zipping around the West Bank and at the same time they are promising business incentives and building incentives to settlers deep in the Territories.
One overriding thing that the freeze does is that it puts the Netanyahu government on official notice that NOW they are accountable in a way that they never had been before. They took a position and now they either have to live up to that or not. In other words it is a "Put up or Shut up" proposition.
In one update: I had written the diary then read this - Haim Oron of Meretz has introduced a no confidence vote in the Government.
The cabinet's approval Sunday of a plan to pump millions of shekels into West Bank settlements stirred fierce anger among members of the opposition and the left-wing parties, who accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of shirking his declared commitment to a Middle East peace process.
"The cabinet decision teaches us that the political process is not on the national list of priorities, and that Netanyahu and his cronies are itching for a fight with the American government and the international community," said Meretz Chairman Haim Oron.
The left-wing Meretz faction submitted a motion of no-confidence in response to the plan.
The opposition Kadima party on Sunday lashed out at the cabinet for approving the plan, saying it in effect "canceled out any declaration made by Netanyahu regarding two states for two peoples
It seems the confusion just continues BUT, one perhaps unintended side effect of all this is the renaissance of Left leaning politics in Israel.