All of us thirst for evidence that our pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda is having traction - and this week we've gotten it in spades. No, there hasn't been a breakthrough (yet) in efforts to re-launch peace talks. But two major developments this week have put settlements and the occupation center stage - compelling Israelis to pay attention to the damage the Greater Israel enterprise is inflicting on them and the state of Israel.
The first development comes out of Europe, in the form of a new EU directive requiring that all future agreements between the EU and Israel formally differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories (and exclude the latter). This decision has, predictably, outraged those Israelis (and others) who want to erase the Green Line in order to expand settlements and expand Israel. They are outraged because the decision makes clear to Israelis that even its closest friends and trading partners in the international community refuse to accept continued settlement expansion - and are losing patience in the face of political intransigence and game-playing over the issue. APN and Peace Now both welcomed the timely EU decision, which we believe is the most truly pro-Israel position possible.
"The EU's decision broadcasts a clear message that the world does not recognize the West Bank settlements, which contradict universal democratic values. Israel's government is fighting a losing battle against the global understanding that Israel's occupation of the West Bank has to end. Israel can't force Israeli and international officials to take part in the settlement enterprise, which goes against a worldview of moral values."
You can find a link to the directives themselves here, where you will also find instructions on how to join us for a briefing call on Monday July 22nd at 12:00 noon with The Guardian's Middle East editor Ian Black to discuss the EU's policy and other issues.
The second development comes from none other than Israel's own State Comptroller - an independent inspector who serves the Knesset as an investigative examiner of the conduct of the executive branch, the government, and its many institutions. It turns out that one of the State Comptroller's targets this year is law enforcement on settlements and settlers in the West Bank. We know this because the State Comptroller today released a detailed report which reveals the complete absence of law enforcement in the settlements. It validates what Peace Now has long known, that (in the Comptroller's words) "Israeli Authorities act against the law and for the settlers."
Specifically, the Comptroller points to the nonexistence of legal oversight in building and construction and use of land by settlers - who enjoy the use of the land without paying the legally required rents (depriving state coffers of huge income due), without legally required oversight of their actions, and with no accountability. As the Comptroller concluded, the West Bank has become a Wild West where "Everyone does what is right in his own eyes." To read more, see the statement/summary issued today by Peace Now, as well as this coverage in Haaretz.
Both of these developments remind Israelis of the high costs that settlements impose on each and every one of them - costs that include growing international isolation, financial strain on Israel's already over-taxed budget, and the deterioration of Israeli rule of law. With Secretary Kerry working assiduously to achieve a breakthrough and regenerate serious, productive Israeli-Palestinian talks, these developments hopefully will remind Israelis why it is so important that they support this peace effort and demand that their government stop sacrificing Israel's future for settlements.