Stop settlements

Defying international law and opinion, Israel is going ahead with construction of 1,600 new housing units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, in East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 242 calls on Israel to pullout of all territory occupied in the war. Israel has  been dragging its feet on withdrawing from the occupied territories. Around half-a-million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its repeated incursions into the Gaza Strip is illegal as is its approval of new housing units at Ramat Shlomo and other settlements. In November, Israel had announced a 10-month suspension of new building in the West Bank. But it considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and thus not subject to the restrictions.

The international community is calling on Israel to stop its settlement activity. The US, which considers itself as the ‘honest broker’ in the West Asian peace process too has lent its weak voice to the chorus. But Washington’s position seems disingenuous. It is objecting to the timing of the announcement of the new settlements rather than the substance of the activity itself. Israel’s settlement activity must be condemned because it is illegal and provocative, and not just because of its poor timing. Vice-president Joe Biden’s statement lays bare Washington’s unwillingness to pull up Israel. This will enable Israel to persist with its confrontationist approach.

The announcement of fresh settlements in East Jerusalem might help Netanyahu win some applause from hardline Jews. It will do little to boost the long-term interests of the Israeli people. Israel keeps complaining that its security is threatened. It can improve its security only by returning all of the occupied territories to the Palestinians. Its approach of eating into Palestinian land by building settlements in East Jerusalem and West Bank is aggressive occupation. It cannot hope to build peace through this strategy. An opportunity for resolving the conflict has opened up with the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table. Israel should grab this opportunity.

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