28 December 2015 Maan News
Israeli watchdog Peace Now reported Sunday that the Ministry of Housing began “quietly” planning for 8372 housing units in the E1 area in November 2014, hiring architects to work on many of the plans that had been cancelled.
The revelations are likely to spark controversy, as construction in E1 would effectively split the West Bank into separate northern and southern parts, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state nearly impossible.
The ministry’s plans include moves to retroactively legalize a number of illegal outposts in occupied areas, as well as to create urban continuity between illegal settlements to Jerusalem, the watchdog said.
One of many plans underway would place 800 housing units between Palestinian areas of Al-Jib and Biddu, connecting the illegal Givat Zeev settlement to Jerusalem, preventing a potential Palestinian West to East corridor, Peace Now said.
One thousand units for the Jahalin Bedouin are also being planned, so that the tribe can be evicted them from the area of the illegal Maale Adumim settlement and E1 and moved to the planned village, the group reported.
Construction plans for over 12 thousand housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the Old City are also underway by the Ministry of Housing, the report said, adding that around half of 55,548 settlement units expected to be built through the ministry's plans lie on the Palestinian side of the separation wall.
Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now, told Israeli daily Haaretz, “The government of Israel is not wasting a single day and is investing tens of millions of shekels in expanding and establishing new settlements.
“Behind the scenes they are secretly planning the establishment of a binational state,” he continued.
In a meeting with US President Barack Obama last month, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that settlements were “not a core issue” in conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The PM said that the refusal by Palestinian leadership to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state was the only impediment to establishing an independent Palestinian state.
The Israeli PM also denied that settlement expansion was taking over a significant portion of Palestinian land, saying that the “total amount of built-up land is….maybe one tenth of one percent.”
Netanyahu’s statement came as over 200 Israeli settlements and outposts continue to expand over Palestinian land, connected by government-built infrastructure intended for Israeli use only.
UN adopts resolution on Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources
The draft solution, “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” was adopted with 164 votes in favor and five against.
Member states that voted against the measure included Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, and the United States. Ten other states abstained from the vote.
The resolution is the latest to be adopted through ongoing efforts by Palestinian leadership to take measures against Israel in the international arena following decades of failed peace talks.
The adopted resolution demands that Israel cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of Palestinian natural resources, and recognize the right of Palestinians under military occupation to claim restitution.
A recommendation report for the resolution discussed Israel’s “extensive destruction” of Palestinian agricultural land and the economic and environmental repercussions of the policy.
The report cited the destruction of Palestinian water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, noting that the elimination of “vital infrastructure” was at its most severe in the Gaza Strip during Israel's military operations in the summer of 2014.
The UN General Assembly reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlement enterprise and its monopoly over Palestinian resources citing the “detrimental impact of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and the forced diversion of water resources.”
Water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory almost entirely under Israeli control under the Oslo Accords, and around 85 percent of water is allocated to Israelis, according to the Palestinian Water Authority.
The resolution comes as the European Union last month targeted Israeli exploitation in the occupied West Bank by boycotting products made in illegal settlements.
Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka released a report shortly after the EU decision, citing that in addition to water, Israeli settlement activity has also dispossessed Palestinians from quarries, mines, Dead Sea resources, and other non-renewable natural resources.
Israeli leadership has long condemned attempts by Palestinian leadership to rely on international mechanisms in the place of negotiations, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referring to the move in the past as “diplomatic terrorism.”
Netanyahu's five-pronged strategy to delay a two-state solution
by Uri Savir 27 December Al-Monitor
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to place roadblocks in the path of any political process designed to bring about a two-state solution, according to a senior European Union official in Brussels who visits the region on a regular basis and spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
“There are two facets to Netanyahu’s anti-two-state strategy," the official said. "Netanyahu attempts to ensure the nonviability of a Palestinian state, mainly through the expansion of settlements, and at the same time he recites a long list of reasons why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sabotaging possible negotiations. In every meeting with Netanyahu, we discover another obstacle and hear another argument. In the corridors of the EU headquarters there are those defining Netanyahu as a 'serial alibi-ist,' always finding a reason not to place himself at the scene of a two-state solution negotiation.”
At EU headquarters, there is a sense of hopelessness regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, given Netanyahu’s rejection of any initiative, Abbas’ weakness and the US abstention from attempts to revive a peace process or to accept a UN Security Council resolution on the issue.
The EU source warns of a possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority and an outbreak of a violent intifada.
Netanyahu has a different analysis of the situation. A close confidant of the prime minister, talking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu is interested in a two-state solution with a demilitarized Palestinian state, conditioned on the recognition of the Jewish State of Israel and with stringent security measures throughout the West Bank.
Yet the source said, Netanyahu believes that now is the wrong time to move in that direction, when the entire region faces the threat of fundamentalist terror groups such as the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. Terror, according to Netanyahu, must first be quelled — only then can political negotiations take place.
The Jerusalem source admitted the prime minister's office clearly has a plan to delay the two-state solution. The strategy consists of several elements.
First, the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party of Naftali Bennett needs to be kept within the coalition. Netanyahu has made this clear to Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog in back-channel talks on a possible national unity government. The prime minister considers Israeli settlers his main political base for his next election campaign. This constituency must be convinced that Netanyahu is their best guarantee against a Palestinian state, as he knows how to outmaneuver the international community.
Second, settlements need to be expanded, which would render establishing a Palestinian state impossible. This is especially true in the case of the Jerusalem-area settlements and those outside the settlement blocs that disrupt the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said in a Dec. 18 interview with the daily Israel Hayom that by 2019, the government plans to increase the number of settlers by 50% — to 600,000 — in the West Bank (not counting East Jerusalem).
Then there is the element of resisting US pressure. Netanyahu responded with a resounding "No" to US Secretary of State John Kerry during Kerry's last visit on Nov. 24 regarding any meaningful confidence-building measures, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu excels in resisting US pressure and pointing the finger at Abbas. During the Kerry peace initiative of 2013-14, the prime minister agreed to certain concessions on a border based on 1967 lines, but conditioned them on Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, something he knew the Americans would accept but Abbas would reject.
A fourth strategic component of Netanyahu's plan is cooperation with neighboring countries. Part of his well-orchestrated, anti-two-state strategy is to use Israel's close security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan to defuse their pressure on the Palestinian issue. The same is true for Israel potentially exporting natural gas to Turkey.
In addition, Netanyahu's office views IS as a major propaganda asset in making the case against a Palestinian state. The prime minister and his representatives equate random Palestinian terror attacks by individuals to IS terror, and warn that the West Bank risks turning into an IS base should Israel withdraw. This approach works well with most Israelis and with some in the international community who are mesmerized by the IS threat.
This strategy also shapes the content of Netanyahu’s policy dialogue with both the United States and the EU.
This indicates that those who claim that Netanyahu has no foreign policy or does not achieve his strategic goals are wrong. The strategies, the diplomacy and the rhetoric all serve one central purpose: to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel is shaping a new reality, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River — a binational apartheid state in the making.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------