The past few days have demonstrated yet again how dangerous the Israeli government’s occupation policies are. The Biden administration must take determined action to stop the Israeli government from destroying any chance for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
On Sunday, the Israeli government approved a measure that grants responsibility for West Bank planning procedures to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a zealot national-religious settler who publicly proposed a plan to annex most of the West Bank by doubling the number of Israelis who live there. The measure also stipulates that planning procedures for settlement construction will no longer require approval by the Minister of Defense, as they did in the past.
Yesterday, it was officially announced that the West Bank Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee, the body currently responsible for all construction planning in areas under Israeli control in the West Bank, will discuss next week the promotion of a whopping 4,799 housing units through 28 plans for 18 settlements, including the authorization of an illegal (even by Israeli law) outpost.
Also yesterday, an IDF incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin triggered one of the most intense firefights in over 20 years, involving a high-powered roadside bomb used by Palestinians against Israeli armored personnel carriers as well as the use of an attack helicopter by the IDF to help rescue Israeli soldiers caught in in the fighting. The toll was high. Six Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old, and almost 100 were injured, some of them critically. On the Israeli side, 7 soldiers were injured, some of them badly.
And today, there was a deadly terrorist attack near the Israeli settlement of Eli, near Ramallah. A gunman shot and killed four people and injured four more, further escalating tension in the West Bank.
All of this takes place while Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barabara Leaf, was on a visit to Israel and the West Bank.
The State Department issued a stern reaction to the developments pertaining to settlement planning and construction, saying it is “deeply concerned.” It also called on the Government of Israel to respect its commitments made in the recent Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh summits to “immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months,” including settlement planning and legalization of illegal outposts. The State department’s statement echoed past statements that were, as this will be, blatantly ignored by the Israeli government.
At this point it is more than evident that words are not enough to curb Israeli government policies aimed at quashing the prospects of any reasonable Israeli-Palestinian conflict-ending agreement.
APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “To effectively curb the Netanyahu government’s destructive policies, the Biden administration must shift from words to action. The administration has numerous tools in its relationship with Israel which it could use to express its displeasure in consequential deeds rather than in ineffective rhetoric.”