“With every new settlement, the prospect of peace and the future of a Palestinian state becomes less achievable.” ~ Dr Rami Hamdallah Prime Minister of the State of Palestine.
(TFC) – Palestine/Israel Is Israel above international law? It sure seems like it believes that it is. On December 23, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 2334, again affirming the illegality of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. The vote was ignored by Israel, “I’m not ever going to stop building. No construction will be stopped” said Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat. The vote was, however, significant for two reasons: first, being the first United Nations Security council resolutions targeting Israel, which was not vetoed by the US, which decided to abstain. Secondly, it demonstrated a growing international consensus on the illegality and illegitimacy of Israel’s settlement expansion program.
The fact that even Israel’s dependable ally, the United States, affirmed the illegality of settlements, did nothing to change the course of the Benjamin Netanyahu government.
On the contrary, since the UN Security Council resolution, Israel has rushed to approve the construction of an even greater number of homes on Palestinian land. In total, close to 6,000 new settlement homes have been announced since Donald Trump’s inauguration, a higher number than the total amount of settlement housing units approved in all of 2016. The bill passed its initial legislative hurdles in November and December but was subsequently deferred and postponed until after the US elections.
Israel was correct in predicting that Trump would abandon the policies of his predecessors and quickly adapt a more welcoming stance toward the settlements. Trump has already appointed a prominent US supporter of the settlements to be his ambassador to Israel, and a delegation of settler leaders was invited to his inauguration.This has emboldened Netanyahu, and the far right coalition in the Israeli parliament to pass new legislation – dubbed the “regularisation bill“, which is essentially a ‘legalized’ land theft – enabling settlers to steal Palestinian land and thereby accelerating construction of settlements. A more straightforward name would, in fact, be the “Expropriation Bill,” since it simply legalizes government expropriation of privately owned property, and retroactively legalizes dozens of Israeli outposts with thousands of housing units already built on once sovereign Palestinian territory.
Although this is nothing new, the government of Israel has been using ‘settlers’ to build outposts in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem for nearly half a century. “This law crosses a dangerous red line,” says Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who claimed that it violated the Fourth Geneva Convention and said that he would not defend the bill if it was challenged in an Israeli court.
Make no mistake: thousands of settlers will now scramble to establish new settlements – and that is in addition to the thousands of settlement housing units that will be sponsored and built by the Israeli government itself, this is essentially an open invitation to the end of Palestine.
Settlement construction “threatens regional peace, stability and security.” Said Samih Shbeib, a West Bank political analyst “Increased settlements, especially in Jerusalem, its suburbs and in the West Bank, all indicate that Israel is planning to annex the entire West Bank in the future,”
Ustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party Chairman, warned the law “would [destroy] the concept of establishing an independent Palestinian state.”
There can be no doubt that Israel’s legalization of force, and policy of expansion by settlements, incrementally encroaching and driving up Palestinian land makes the establishment of a viable two-state solution increasingly impossible.
We can no longer afford to ignore Israel’s land grab agenda. Experience has shown that these settlements are are violations of universal and International law, obstructive to peace, and contrary to the moral and ethical democracy we claim to espouse. Countries that ignore international law (and are allowed to get away with it) invalidate and infringe on basic human rights, push humanity back into darker ages, where colonialism and ethnic cleansing were accepted as the status quo. The Palestinians might be the ones who are most affected by Israel’s settlements today, but in the long term, we will all be affected.
Palestinian officials will take their case to the ICC, and request that the UNSC holds an emergency resolution, but there is not much that the Palestinians can do without International support, they are too poor and oppressed to do anything but resist by continuing to exist. We are at a crucial stage together here on this planet, and the decisions that we make collectively in the next decade will have a major impact on where humanity will be in the next century. Now, more than ever, free people from around the world need to take steps to restore Palestinian sovereignty and relinquish Israel’s insatiable hunger for more land. It is possible to pressure Israel to cease and desist its expansionist policies. Together we can deploy global strategies such as economic and diplomatic sanctions, boycotts, petitions, political campaigns, divesting, and by simply informing others of the situation, we can draw attention and condemnation to Israel’s crimes. This is not simply a moral or legal obligation: it is in everyone’s interests.
This post originally ran on The Fifth Column.