On December 31, 2012, Time Magazine published an article entitled, "The West Bank's 2012: The Year of the Israeli Settlement." Earlier this week, the Israeli Peace Now movement released a new report that makes a case for a different title: 2009-2013: the Years of the Israeli Settlements. The new report (which I co-authored) details the Netanyahu government's record on settlements over the course of its past 4 years in office. The results are incontrovertible: by every objective measure, the Netanyahu government has demonstrated that it is determined to use settlements to destroy the very possibility of the two-state solution.
The Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav) today released an explosive report detailing the record of Prime Minister Netanyahu's government on settlements over the course of its full term in office (April 2009-present). The report, based on official Israel government statistics, reports, and Peace Now field research, documents how over the past four years, the Netanyahu government has used settlements as a tool to systematically undermine the chances of achieving a viable, realistic two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite Netanyahu's rhetorical embrace of such a goal.
The full report is available in English, here.
In recent weeks it has been fascinating to watch defenders of the Netanyahu government and the
settlement enterprise engaging in logical and rhetorical contortions to try to justify the Netanyahu
government's pro-settlement policies. What has emerged is simultaneously the most disingenuous and in some ways
the most honest discussion of settlements in years.
What is a settlement?
"Settlement" is the term used to denote Israeli civilian communities built in territory conquered by Israel in the Six Day War (June 1967). This territory is comprised of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. These neighborhoods have been a major issue in the peace process since 1967 and remain highly controversial.
Settlements in the Sinai were evacuated and destroyed in 1979, following Israel's historic peace agreement with Egypt and the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.
Settlements in the Gaza Strip were evacuated and destroyed as part of Israel's unilateral "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005.
Therefore, today settlements only exist in the Golan Heights and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).
Recently, the European Union adopted harsh new Iran sanctions, strongly supported by Israel. Shortly thereafter, Israel announced new East Jerusalem settlement construction. The EU's top official Catherine Ashton, who was about to visit Israel, condemned the announcement in measured terms; Israel's Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, publicly told her, in effect, to shove it. Imagine if in response, Ashton had indefinitely postponed her trip. Imagine that Israeli ambassadors in EU capitals were summoned to the local foreign ministries and read the riot act. Imagine that Israeli press had been alerted, leading to headlines about how Prime Minister Netanyahu and Lieberman were squandering the friendship of the EU and European support on Iran for the sake of settlement expansion.
On August 2nd, 2012, Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew print edition) published a powerful article looking at the financial bonus that settlements enjoy compared to areas inside the Green Line. The article comes on the heels of Peace Now's publication of an analysis of the budget and a plan to save billions by reducing some benefits to settlements.
The translation is by Israel News Today (INT).
On July 30th, the Calcalist published a major report [Hebrew] examining the
issue of Israeli government spending on settlements. Among other things, the articles note that
government spending on settlements increased by 38% under the Netanyahu government (from 2010 to 2011). The
articles also note the fact that Israeli government spending on settlements from 1992-2011 totaled NIS 27 billion
(in 2011 terms). To get a sense of the magnitude of this spending, the article notes that in 2010 the Israeli
government allocated a budget of NIS 27.5 bilion over ten years "for the first stage of project to introduce into
[the entire country of] Israel a network of fast highways and railway lines." All articles translated by
Israel News Today (INT).
Today’s New York Times features an op-ed by Dani Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council (the group that represents settlers and their interests). There isn’t really any news here: it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the settlers want the world to believe that settlements are good, peace efforts are pointless, and that the way forward should be premised on leaving all settlements in place, and leaving the West Bank under Israeli control, in perpetuity. Nonetheless, it is worth examining some representative snippets from this high profile op-ed.
Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today joined its Israeli sister organization, Peace
Now (Shalom Achshav) in calling on the government of Israel to repudiate the findings of the commission it
appointed to address the problem of illegal outposts in the West Bank. APN calls on other US Jewish groups that
support the two-state solution to raise their voices in opposition to this report.