Israeli Settlement Expansions: Deconstructing Peace

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 2334 on the 23rd of December 2016. This resolution condemns Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory as “a flagrant violation of international law” and as an anathema to the two-state solution. Despite this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “we are building and we will continue to build.” In keeping with this aggressive expansionist stance, the Israeli government has granted permits for the construction of 600 Israeli homes within east Jerusalem and a further 1,900 homes across the West Bank. On the 6th of February, 2017, with a 60–52 vote, the Israeli government passed a bill, which retroactively legitimizes approximately 4,000 Israeli homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. This legislation has been denounced by human rights organizations across the world and is considered, by many within the Israeli left, as the sequential annexation of Palestine, with Israeli opposition leader, Isaac Herzog labeling it a “land grab bill.”

From 1948 until 1967 the so-called ‘Green Line,’ which is a cease-fire line during the Arab-Israeli War, however, it does not wholly codify the boundaries delineated where Israeli state sovereignty ceased and Jordanian sovereignty, including the West Bank, began.  After the fall out of the 6-day war in 1967, Israeli forces passed the green line and occupied the West Bank. It was not until the signing of the two Oslo accords in 1993 and 1995 that the Palestinian people had some semblance of self-governance within Palestine. The Oslo accords separated the West Bank into three regions:

  • Region A: Accounts for around 16% of the land within the West Bank and has full Palestinian self-governance, including military control.
  • Region B: Holds 22% of the West Bank and sees Palestinian government control with Israeli military presence.
  • Region C: The remaining 62% of the West Bank is under full Israeli government and military control.

Since 1967, Israeli governments have conducted a systematic settlement scheme within the West Bank, ignoring pleas and denouncements from vast swathes of the international community. UNSC resolution 446, adopted on 22 March 1979, condemned the settlements of Israelis in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Despite this, the most recent data shows that there is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400,000 Israeli settlers spread across 130 settlements within the West Bank and a further 200,000 settlers in the Holy and hotly contested city of Jerusalem.

The saying goes “what is new is old,” and the cyclical fashion of this dispute has returned to its genesis: a dispute between Zionist settlers and Palestinians. While Oslo officially recognized the state of Palestine, the demarcations of statehood within the West Bank are, at best, arcane, and in reality, it is an incremental stranglehold on the free state of Palestine. Netanyahu’s aggressive and illegal expansionist tactics will, in all certainty, dismantle the relative ‘cold peace’ reached after the second Intifada, an event which is conservatively estimated to have led to the deaths of 1,100 Israelis and 4,900 Palestinians. Each brick laid by Israel within the West Bank creates a path, which leads away from Palestinian sovereignty and toward a, not so silent, third Intifada. Peace will not be reached between the two nations until the state of Israel can respect the boundaries of a “workable” state of Palestine. Yet, from the perennial flouting of international law at Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Jewish settlements “fly over roads,” which circumscribes and atomizes all inhabitants of the West Bank, Israel appears more concerned with power than peace.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the 6-Day War, it appears the most realistic option for peace remains to be the two-state solution. However, this must be predicated on a return to the 1967 green line demarcation, preferably under a land for peace paradigm. The land within Israel and Palestine may be seen in the eyes of these two nations as a holy right, but as Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Christian Harraway

Christian Harraway

Christian Harraway

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