Americans for Peace Now (APN) today harshly condemned the government of Israel's recent actions to move forward with new settlement approvals and tenders in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. APN urged President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to engage vigorously to convince Netanyahu to roll back these reckless, destructive decisions.
APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:
"Yesterday's announcement of tenders for 1200 new units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was an extraordinary sign of contempt for President Abbas and for new U.S. special Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk, who arrived in Israel this week to restart talks. It came on the heels of last week's outrageous news of a decision to press ahead with almost 900 new settlement units. Today's announcement of the approval of nearly 1000 additional settlement units in East Jerusalem appears to reflect nothing short of deliberate effort to extinguish any hopes of success for the Kerry-backed peace effort before the second round of talks even starts.
"Some are arguing that for various reasons these settlement approvals and tenders shouldn't be considered a big deal. This argument doesn't pass the laugh test, especially given the magnitude of the settlement expansion involved. The reality is that every new settlement-related announcement erodes the viability of the newborn peace effort. Every Israeli bulldozer working the soil of the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermines the credibility of Palestinian leaders who remain committed to a negotiated agreement in the eyes of the general population. Every new unit tendered and built makes it incrementally more difficult to achieve a two-state solution.
"Likewise, some are suggesting that Netanyahu feels forced to take these actions in order to placate the right-wing of coalition, so that he can move forward with peace talks. This argument doesn't begin to excuse these pro-settlement decisions. Netanyahu's coalition difficulties are of his own making, as is the leadership test he faces today: can he live up to his commitment - made as the Prime Minster of Israel to the Secretary of State of the United States, to re-enter serious, credible peace talks with the Palestinians. He cannot hope to "pass" this test by undertaking actions that seem deliberately calibrated to discredit the negotiations and undermine the viability of the two-state solution itself.
"Netanyahu is playing a reckless and irresponsible game if he hopes that such actions will ultimately provoke the Palestinians to abandon the negotiating table, and that it will thus be they, not he, who are blamed for causing the peace effort to fail. In the event that talks do break down at this point - and we sincerely hope they will not - it will clearly be because the Netanyahu government has lived up to the worst predictions of its detractors, demonstrating not only that it is not a partner for peace, but that it will only exploit peace talks to further later facts on the very ground that is supposedly under negotiation.
"The world has been watching and hoping that, with newly energized U.S. engagement, there is now a real chance that Israeli-Palestinian peace is on the horizon. Regrettably, what the world is seeing now are Israeli actions that prioritize land over peace, settlements over security, and "Greater Israel" over Israel's good relations with the United States, Europe, and the entire world. Israeli leaders and supporters of the Israeli settlement movement are fooling themselves if they believe that such actions will not come at a higher and higher cost for Israel, whether in terms of global BDS campaigns, increased pressure from the EU and others with respect to settlement policies, and even greater isolation as Israel, increasingly defined solely by the settlements, slips down the slope to pariah status.
"It is not too late to turn the tide. Cynics and opponents of peace alike are welcoming Israeli settlement provocations as the beginning of the end of the new peace effort. We urge President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to act now to safeguard the remarkable achievement they have already made in getting peace efforts this far, and to preserve the crucial promise these talks hold for achieving a two-state solution. To do so, we urge President Obama and Secretary Kerry to intervene personally and vigorously to convince the Prime Minister to turn back from the reckless course of settlement expansion."