Americans for Peace Now (APN) today denounced the government of Israel's actions to move forward with yet more settlement approvals in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. APN once again urged U.S. officials - President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Special Envoy Indyk - to engage forcefully to convince Prime Minister Netanyahu to cease and roll back these reckless, destructive decisions.
Last week, my colleagues in the Israeli Peace Now movement issued two blockbuster reports. These weren't the regular "more construction was announced" fare. These reports have huge implications, both negative and positive, for peace and the two-state solution.
The Bad News: Settlement Construction Surges, Even Without Tenders
Peace Now documented a 70 percent increase in new construction starts in settlements during the first six months of 2013, as compared to the same period in 2012. That's in addition to a huge number of units completed or on which work was ongoing during this period--altogether translating to 3,070 units which are or will soon be available to house new settlers. Assuming a family of five, this translates to around 15,000 new settlers.
Today the Israeli Peace Now movement issued a report documenting a surge in settlement construction during the first half of 2013. The report contradicts the popular narrative that settlement construction in the West Bank slowed during the run-up to the re-start of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In reality, the period of January-June 2013 saw a huge increase in construction compared to the same period in 2012. The details of the report are summarized below. The full report is available here.
The Israeli daily, Ma'ariv, recently ran a story about construction in East Jerusalem, and told its readers, "These figures were given to us by Hagit Ofran, who heads the Settlement Watch program for Peace Now [Shalom Achshav]. Ofran carefully monitors each and every construction permit given to neighborhoods beyond the Green Line and documents them. She was the only one who could give us the precise numbers in an orderly Excel chart."
It is impossible for any thinking person to view yesterday's release of Palestinian prisoners - and the planned release of more prisoners - with anything but very mixed feelings.
Anyone who recognizes that Israeli-Palestinian peace is vital for Israel's security and viability as a democracy and a Jewish state must welcome the release -- as a measure that can strengthen and give credibility to the new negotiating effort -- even as we feel compassion for those for whom these releases awaken terrible memories of heinous crimes committed against loved ones.
Since the start of the new Israeli-Palestinian peace effort backed by Secretary Kerry, it feels like every day has seen news about new settlement approvals, tenders, planning, benefits, etc. In truth, it hasn't been quite every day - but close to it. The settlement floodgates have been opened, and opened wide, especially in East Jerusalem. This timeline is intended not to provide comprehensive details of each new settlement-related development, but to track these developments across time and provide links to additional resources. Also, keep in mind that new developments can be viewed on the map through APN's "Facts on the Ground" Map App.
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.
Anyone familiar with the history of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking can be forgiven for viewing new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with a certain degree of skepticism, in large part fueled by concern that settlements will, once again, be used to undermine the chances for achieving peace.
Recent settlement-related developments warrant such concern. Clearly, some are happy to use settlements to kill the new peace initiative, perhaps hoping this will be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. If they succeed, there will be opportunities aplenty for hardliners and cynics alike to smirk and say, "We told you so," but they'll be smirking into the abyss. Failure of this latest peace effort won't create an alternative to the two-state solution or halt the march of settlements. It will only play into the hands of zero-sum ideologues on both sides, with devastating implications for everyone else.
Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) has released research findings by Lior Amihai of settlement watch, showing over 1000 units being advanced despite the ongoing negotiation process. Some of these plans (approx. 300) had been removed from the previous Higher Planning committee agenda due to the press coverage (including those of Shalom Achshav) of these being brand new plans, and the pressure from the then recently announced EU guidelines.
They write, "We are obviously concerned by these units, the legalization of an outpost and the impact this will have on the negotiation process.It is hard to argue about whether this is in contradiction to Netanyahu's recent commitment to limit new tenders to 1000 units over the negotiaiton process, but suffice it to say, this exemplifies that Netanyahu is placating to the interests of the settlers."
by Lara Friedman
People keep asking me: "Have you seen the news? Has Bibi actually frozen settlements? What does this mean?"