Settlers’ rapidly growing presence in East Jerusalem, along with Monday’s embassy move, indicate that while Trump may still float the possibility of a “two-state solution,” his actions are pointing into the opposite direction.
Why do so many countries refuse to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?
So, is it only about Jerusalem?
Why is a “two-state solution” so difficult to facilitate?
Israel is bracing for a tense week as the U.S. Embassy officially opens in Jerusalem on Monday — a move that has triggered fierce protests by Palestinians. Protests turned violent in Gaza, where dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in clashes along the border fence Monday, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, making it the bloodiest day of demonstrations in the past six weeks of protests.
Overall, more than 80 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and almost 4,000 have been injured since President Trump announced the embassy move early in December.
Observers of the conflict had already predicted the tensions when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the move. At the time, the decision was branded “dangerous,” “catastrophic,” “irresponsible” and being “against international law” by countries usually considered U.S. allies, including France, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
— Article 49, Fourth Geneva Convention
It is time to pose a question: Are Israeli settlers civilians? Or are they illegal occupiers? A group of Israeli settlers made the move to seize land in East Hebron (al-Khalil) last Monday (Mar 6, 2018), setting up camp — adjacent to the “Kharsina settlement” — backed by an entourage of heavily armed soldiers.
This move threatens three Palestinian families, with fears that they will soon be dispossessed of their land and homes. Those at risk of being cleansed and their property stolen, are the Eida, Jwihan and the al-Halawa families. The initiative to take this land came from the settlers themselves, who now occupy the 70-dunums. The settlers are living in four newly purchased caravans.
The above example clearly illustrates the way in which illegally established settlements, in the West Bank, come to their fruition.
If nothing else, the right has persuaded me of this: We need to offer every West Bank Palestinian the option of voting in Israeli elections. If you refuse to allow them a country, for God’s sake, allow them the vote.
“I truly believe that our right to the Land of Israel holds true whether or not [there is a majority]. It is just as when Ben-Gurion established the state and there were 600,000 [Jewish] people facing one and a half to two million Arabs. Our right to the land of Israel was strong and present then. And it exists now as well. Therefore, the majority is not meant to be the deciding factor in our decision making.”
— Yigal Dilmoni, deputy CEO of the settlement movement’s Yesha Council
A senior Israeli settlement movement official, responding to statistics cited by the Israeli military indicating that Jews are now a minority in the Holy Land, stated this week that Jews have the right to rule Israel even if Arabs become a majority within the country.
The statement came hours after a furor erupted Monday in the Knesset, where figures cited by an army colonel showed that some three million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and another two million in the Gaza Strip.
Combined with the 1.8 million Arab citizens of Israel and the 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the statistics meant that from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, Arabs may outnumber Israel’s 6.6 million Jews by as many as 600,000 people. . . .
The Open Shuhada Street Campaign takes place annually during the last week of February to commemorate the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque and raise international awareness of the horrifying reality in Hebron.
The creation of settlements in Hebron included three stages:
Stage One, expropriate land from Palestinians claiming it is for military use;
Stage Two, build civilian housing on the military base and then allow Jewish settlers to move in; and
Stage Three, recognize it as a legitimate Jewish settlement.
This sets a precedent for the creation of facts on the ground that would become the model for the expansion of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
In order to fully understand the reality in Palestine, one must come to terms with the idea that the conquest of Palestine by the Zionists was done with the intent of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the native inhabitants of Palestine. This was true when, in 1948, 78 percent of Palestine was conquered and renamed Israel and it was also true when, in 1967, the conquest was completed and Israel took the remaining 22 percent of the country.
The intention was and remains taking over the land and populating it with Jews at the expense of Palestinians. It is true in the villages and in the towns, in the cities and in the countryside. It is crucial to examine how the Zionist regime accomplishes its goals on a case by case basis, and how local Palestinian leaders and grassroots groups resist. One particularly troubling example is the Zionist takeover of the old city of El-Khalil, Hebron, and the actions taken by Youth Against Settlements (YAS), and its leader and cofounder Issa Amro, to resist this takeover.
“Adidas is lending its brand to cover up and whitewash Israel’s human rights abuses [giving] international cover to Israel’s illegal settlements.”
— letter to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted
Over 130 Palestinian football clubs urged Adidas to end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA) over its inclusion of teams based in illegal Israeli settlements across Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Currently there are at least 250 Israeli settlements in the West Bank. They are normally accompanied by the expulsion of Palestinians from their land, increased restrictions on Palestinians’ right to movement due to roadblocks and checkpoints, resource grabbing, increased presence of Israeli occupation forces to provide security, and settler-related violence.
“Refraining from visiting, talking, buying, and knowing each other — that’s bigotry.”
— Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York
Supporters of Israeli settlements in the West Bank held an event on the sidelines of the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on Monday, at the same time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump held talks at the White House.
The event, organized by Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of the settler movement, focused on fighting against calls to boycott products made in settlements.
More than a hundred people gathered to hear Israeli ministers from the right-wing coalition — including Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) — all of whom expressed their strong support for maintaining Israel’s presence in the West Bank and for rejecting any peace plan that involves the creation of a Palestinian state there.
The director of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem [says] there is a battle underway between those who want to continue “smart occupation,” which manages to “fly two inches below international outrage” while incrementally shifting facts on the ground, and those who advocate “dumb occupation” — moving forward with formal annexation.
Since becoming mayor of Maale Adumim more than 20 years ago, Benny Kashriel has doggedly campaigned for his community to be recognized as part of Israel.
Now, with President Trump in the White House, Kashriel thinks it may just happen.
His settlement is around four miles east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Most of the international community, including the United States, considers its construction to be illegal, built on land captured during the 1967 war.
Still, it has steadily grown from what began as a cluster of prefabricated buildings erected by 23 families in the 1970s into a burgeoning satellite city of Jerusalem. Palm trees line the wide roads of what looks like a Florida suburb. Red-roofed houses and high-rises are home to 42,000 people, who are served by all of the accoutrements of a modern city: schools, restaurants, cafes and a shopping mall.
“The ethics laws were not crafted by people who had the foresight to imagine a Donald Trump or a Jared Kushner. No one could ever imagine this scale of ongoing business interests . . . that give the president and his top adviser personal economic stakes in an astounding number of policy interests.”
— Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit government ethics group
Last May, Jared Kushner accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive.
The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Mr. Kushner’s firm. While Mr. Kushner has sold parts of his business since taking a White House job last year, he still has stakes in most of the family empire — including the apartment buildings in and around Baltimore.
Instead of fiddling with Jerusalem’s boundaries, the ministers and mayor should set in motion a plan to rehabilitate all East Jerusalem’s neighborhoods. That a Palestinian refugee camp, Shoafat, has existed for 50 years within Israel’s sovereign borders is inexcusable.
Ministers Zeev Elkin and Naftali Bennett are sponsoring legislation that would let the government change Jerusalem’s borders, making the Kafr Aqab and Shoafat refugee-camp neighborhoods that have been within the city’s boundaries for 50 years separate municipal entities.
Both ministers have impeccable records regarding their opposition to the division of Jerusalem, but still the legislation they’re trying to move through the Knesset at lightning speed constitutes a shrinking of the municipal boundaries of Israel’s capital by separating off certain neighborhoods. Like it or not, this is a division of Jerusalem. No wonder Mayor Nir Barkat objects.
“There is clear evidence at the Biyar Aqueduct — as there is at other sites — of the presence of the sons of the Judean Kingdom or of Jews at various periods. The problem is that these sites are being used as propaganda tools to establish the right of Jews to those lands, and the multicultural aspect of thousands of years of history is sidelined or even wiped out of the whole story.”
— Archaeologist Yonathan Mizrachi
The Israeli left made no bones about its glee over the empty bleachers at the September 27 jubilee celebration of the liberation of Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and Golan Heights organized by the settlers in the occupied West Bank. The left views the photos of the empty seats as proof of the settlers’ failure to occupy the hearts and minds of the general Israeli public. The leftists argue that not only did the billions poured by successive Israeli governments into the settlements for 50 years lure fewer than 5% of Israelis to live there — about 400,000 according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics — the vast majority avoided the wasteful “liberation festival.”
Yet the pleasure taken by the left in the seeming failure of the settlers and their patrons is somewhat pathetic. Granted, the right-wing concept of a return to the land of the forefathers has not created a major demographic shift of Israelis moving to the settlements. Nonetheless, the notion has ingrained itself in the minds of broad swathes of the Israeli public and of tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. It happens daily in Jerusalem’s Old City and throughout the West Bank.