Dave Osler has a good piece on the Israeli government’s latest settlement activities :
ISRAEL’S announcement of plans for 1,600 new settler housing units in illegally occupied Palestinian territory has triggered both stern condemnation from Washington and rioting on the streets of East Jerusalem. And just to highlight their heartfelt regret over these adverse reactions, the Israeli authorities have today confirmed their desire to build 300 more.
It is difficult to interpret such intractable obstinacy as anything other than deliberate provocation, and not just in respect of the timing. As Netanyahu is well aware, substantial withdrawal is the sine qua non for the two-state policy increasingly pressed on his government by the rest of the world.
Yet his evident determination to scupper this outcome is so deep that he is willing quite literally to try and build his way out of his impasse. Not only can he not be allowed to succeed; he cannot succeed, even within his own terms.
Netanyahu’s hardline position puts him directly at odds with majority opinion in his own country. Most Israelis do not regard preservation of settlements in Palestinian territory as a fundamental objective of the state, and do not believe that the interests of settlers take priority over those of the population in general.
Still the administration pushes on with colonisation, either oblivious to – or more likely perfectly conscious of – the consequences. But in either eventuality, it is equally culpable. Yet in the long run, the economic, demographic, diplomatic and political realities that will ultimately culminate in the establishment of a Palestinian state render the practice unsustainable.
The argument is sometimes advanced that any Israeli government calling for the abandonment of even a single settlement would run the risk of civil war. It is indeed the case that some isolated communities are home to potentially terrorist elements inspired by the ideas of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
But these groups lack sufficient wider support to mobilise mass backing for any resistance to an order to withdraw. There is also the precedent of Yamit, an Israeli-built town in northeast Sinai, which was evacuated in 1982 under the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.
Ultimately the settlements are an obstacle in the way of a settlement, and that is why the construction work – tellingly, employing mostly Palestinian labour – is being stepped up. But they are not enough of an obstacle to do anything more than delay the inevitable cave in to reality.