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Consequences of Netanyahu's actions exceed critics’ mild assessment

Apr 23,2019 - Last updated at Apr 24,2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to annex the Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land has been widely criticised. That is absolutely normal because all settlements built on occupied territories, whether in the West Bank or the Golan Heights, are illegal, and they constitute flagrant violations of international law.

What sounds evasive is the claim that such Netanyahu action would eliminate any opportunity of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement on the basis of the two-state solution formula; as if that goal was round the corner had there been no annexation threat.

When Israel started the colonisation process in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem included, and the Gaza Strip soon after those lands were occupied by Israel in the June 1967 war, the practice was condemned at the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, as well as by individual states worldwide, as illegal. As such, UN resolutions on the matter demanded their removal. But because Israel never paid any attention to UN decisions, and continued to commit more violations and to build more settlements, the “hope” was that the housing units issue would eventually be dealt with in future negotiations, within the framework of the so-called peace process.

The settlements that were built in Sinai, on the Egyptian side, were, indeed, completely removed while the two sides, Israel and Egypt, negotiated the Camp David peace treaty in the late 1970s.

The Jewish settlements which were built in Gaza were also removed by a unilateral Israeli decision in 2005, as the dozen settlements there with around 40,000 Jewish settlers living in them became a huge untenable security burden on Israel.

However, the example of the Sinai and Gaza settlements was not meant to be followed in the West Bank. On the contrary, Israel believed that neutralising Egypt and relieving its army of Gaza security responsibilities would spare all efforts for a faster colonisation process of the West Bank, confiscating more Palestinian lands and building more Jewish settlements.

That was helped by the absence of effective UN pressure on Israel to implement relevant UN resolutions, as well as indecision on the Palestinian and Arab sides to press, right from the beginning, for an immediate halt to any construction on their occupied lands, engaging instead in open-ended futile negotiations that only offered Israel the time for creating more irreversible facts on the ground, mainly in the West Bank and in and around Jerusalem. Israel paid no attention to Arab or international verbal protests that routinely followed Israel's settlement expansion plans.

Further encouragement to Israel occurred when the terminology started to change in favour of the colonisation scheme of the Palestinian lands. The settlements, defined originally and correctly as “illegal”, became, instead, “obstacles to peace” or “harmful to the peace process”. Later on, the “land swap” notion, or “minor border alterations”, to which all the peace process operators, including the Palestinian Authority, have agreed became the actual licence for Israel to continue building.

Netanyahu’s threat to annex the settlements, as well as his promise not to remove one single settler, is not just a threat to the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peaceful settlement because this option never existed. The undisputed reality which should be clearly stated is that the settlements are illegal, whether annexed or not. The settlements, therefore, should be removed in accordance with international law. They should be removed simply because they are illegal.

Netanyahu, and his predecessors, have been systematic in implementing a compact plan for colonising the entire land of Palestine, squeezing the Arab Palestinians in it until the time comes for rending it altogether, preventing any possibility of allowing the rise of any kind of Palestinian statehood or recognising any of the Palestinian rights, irrespective of what international law and UN resolutions say. This has been happening under a smoke screen called the peace process and protracted negotiations that led to nowhere. The only difference now is that Netanyahu is open about his country's otherwise disguised plans, obviously encouraged by the unprecedented US support.

As I argued on this page repeatedly, the issue is not the housing units or their annexation, nor is it the cruel occupation practices ongoing for half a century; the issue is the occupation. So long as the occupation remains in place, such Israeli actions will continue and the occupier will continue to dig deeper.

The latest escalations should remind all of us that the time is right now to focus on the main issue: the occupation, demanding its removal. With that, all issues can be effectively managed.

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