The leaders of Hamas in Gaza and Damascus could not have expected a better gift from the Israeli government.
The images of bulldozers breaking ground throughout the settlements are the most effective weapon against Israel in the international and internal Palestinian arenas. This is how the extremists who are opposed to any agreement on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side fuel each other, in order to undermine any chance of an arrangement. This makes it possible to embarrass Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority and win renewed support in the internal Palestinian battle for public opinion. With its own hands and bulldozers, Israel is insisting on humiliating the Palestinian Authority, spitting in the face of anyone who comes to political negotiations with Israel and making it clear to the world that Israel does not intend to leave the territories, on the contrary, it intends to continue to invest in hundreds of settlements throughout the West Bank.
In the days of the Intifada, many politicians on the Left and the Right used to declare repeatedly that Israel would only agree to serious negotiations and to halt the construction in the settlements when terror would stop and the PA would seriously fight against Hamas and the rejectionist organizations. In closed rooms, the same politicians would add that this would never happen, and therefore there was no cause for concern. But in the past few years, the Palestinian Authority has been meeting its commitments and successfully battling against the terror organizations in Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu and top security officials have also agreed to this, and have seen fit to publicly praise Abu Mazen and Fayyad for their control of the territory.
The road map to which the Israeli government agreed, formally requires the Palestinians to fight terror, in a difficult internal war, which could even jeopardize the personal safety of the PA leaders. Conversely, the Israeli government is called upon to stop the construction in the settlements and confront the internal Israeli rejectionist front, which is opposed to any compromise. Now, the entire world cannot accept in any form an Israeli disavowal of its commitment not to build in the territories. Construction in the settlements is opposed to international law, contradicts all logic of conducting sincere and serious negotiations, and signals to the world that by force and occupation, Israel will unilaterally continue to take over lands with defiant aggression. Even firm supporters of Israel will not succeed in defending the Israeli government's decision to resume construction in the territories. A stranger would not understand how a noisy and vociferous minority of settlers succeeds in twisting the arm of an entire country and forcing it to invest huge sums in shattering the chance for an arrangement and turning Israel into a bi-national state. How several thousand Likud Central Committee members, who are residents of the settlements, succeed in disturbing the prime minister's judgment and force him to enter into a confrontation with the United States. This is not about security needs or a war on terror such as Operation Cast Lead. Construction in the settlements is a clear political step aimed at declaring that we are here to stay in the territories.
In the coming days, the spokespersons of the settlers will become the best PR men for Hamas and the anti-Israel front around the world, and their arrogant statements about the continued Israeli takeover of Palestinian lands will resonate around the world, causing immense harm to the entire Zionist idea. At a time when Israel is fighting for the right to defend itself and to battle against terror, the decision to yield to the Settlers Council will cause a great many smiles in Gaza, Damascus and Tehran.