Israel has authorised the construction of 3,000 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israeli officials. It is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 planning permissions. The decision comes a day after a vote at the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the UN to that of non-member observer state. The US said the expansion plan was counterproductive and would make it harder to resume peace talks.In a separate article, their Middle East Correspondent writes:
"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Earlier Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an end to settlement building and a return to peace talks. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the new units would be built between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim. Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Plenty of attention in the build-up to the vote was centred on a technical question about UN procedures which could have far-reaching political implications - would this upgraded status give the Palestinians access to UN agencies and the International Criminal Court?Israel is in trouble, and I don't envy their position. On the one hand they're fighting Hamas. We're talking about a group of people there who really do dream of standing in Jerusalem after pushing the Israelis into the sea. Anyone critical of Hamas ends up snuffed out, shot as "collaborators" or in one case dragged through the streets tied to a motorcycle. And then they have the Palestinian National Authority who've learned how to play the diplomatic game.
If it did, then they would be able in theory to pursue Israel for its settlement policies on the West Bank - widely seen as a clear breach of international law.
Israel rejects that legal interpretation - but it may not be anxious to see the issue tested in court.
Even if the Palestinians didn't decide to exercise that option immediately, the threat that they might do so at a moment of their choosing would be a powerful diplomatic tool.
But when we see actions like this, one gets the impression that Likud is thumbing its nose at the international community.
I think that Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud are leading Israel down a disastrous road. Ariel Sharon started them down this path. The list of pitfalls is a long one, but to select just a few, there's the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, with the death of Rachel Corrie, the wars with Palestine and Lebanon, and the Gaza Flotilla raid which culminated in the execution of a 19 year old American citizen by Israeli commandos (Democracy Now) (Guardian), and the deaths of eight others.
Throughout all of this, Netanyahu and the Israeli Government have been completely unapologetic for all of the harm they have caused to human life and the stability of the region. Their policies have had consequences.
Turkey was once Israel's closest ally in the region. That friendship may never be repaired. Germany and the UK are both nations who have historically stood by Israel through thick and thin, supporting them as strongly as the United States. All three nations have sold military equipment to Israel and trained Israeli personnel. Germany and the UK both abstained from the most recent UN vote, refusing to stand by Israel's side as they have in the past.
And now, Likud is thumbing its nose at the international community, and carrying on with destructive and counterproductive policies.
It has always been in Israel's interest to come to a decision sooner rather than later. Justice does not wait forever, and the unjust treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government isn't something that the world, or even my generation of Americans, are willing to ignore forever.
And the Palestinians realize this. To some degree, I think that the Israelis who say that the Palestinians don't really want to come to the table right now are right.
Why would you bargain now when your position will be better in the future? Why would you bargain now when the Israelis aren't willing to accept your terms? The Palestinians have wanted a state of their own since 1948, and they certainly aren't willing to surrender more ground to Israel. Abbas' strategy, the cessation of attacks from the PLO, is working. They have now won more by portraying Israel as the aggressor in the court of public opinion, than they have in decades of failed negotiations.
If the Palestinians can organize real, nonviolent resistance to Israel, as they have been in the west bank, if they can stop the rocket attacks from Gaza, and if they can continue to make Israel look like an aggressor, they'll win far more through international pressure than they would through negotiation with Israel.
Israel's position here is untenable, and I don't envy them. But their aggressive actions over the past decade have dug them into a hole. Likud's most recent action, in expanding west bank settlements, seems to show that their future policies will involve a lot more digging. I'd like to say that if Likud stopped digging, they'd return Israel to a place of strength and respect, but I don't know that this particular hole can be un-dug.
Update, courtesy of Mahakali Overdrive. Clinton to Israelis: Support Abbas.
Big update, IMHO. Diary-worthy:
Speaking at the 2012 Saban forum at the Willard InterContinental Washington DC Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that without progress towards peace Israel will be forced to choose between "preserving democracy and the Jewish identity of the state." Clinton rejected Lieberman's pessimism on concerning the Palestinian Authority's capability to govern its territory and bring about a lasting peac.e
"With very little money, no natural resources, they have accomplished quite a bit, building a security force that works every single day with the IDF. They have entrepreneurial successes. They are nationalistic - but largely secular. Israel should support them."
"Some Israelis claim Abbas is not a partner for peace", Clinton continued, possibly with the Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, who sitting just several feet away, in mind. "Well, I think that should be tested."