The Endless Occupation

In late October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of the Knesset foreign Affairs and Defense Committees that “at this time we need to control all of the territory (of Occupation in Jerusalemthe West Bank) for the foreseeable future.” He echoed this during his talk at the Center for American Progress on November 10, when he insisted that, despite his stated support for a two-state solution, he saw no alternative to a permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

These remarks fall within a particular set of parameters of discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this view, Israel is being asked to make a concession by even considering an end to its now 48-year old occupation. In this view, Palestinian liberty is not a self-evident, inalienable right, but an Israeli gift.

This view is not only that of the Israeli right, but of the majority of politicians in both Jerusalem and Washington. Netanyahu is merely following those parameters to their logical conclusion: that the occupation lives until such time as Israel feels it should end. The fact that millions of Palestinians live under military rule may disturb many Israelis, but it does not create a political imperative to change that state of affairs.

Netanyahu recognizes the absence of any international agenda for a peace process, much less any real pressure to get back onto the long and winding road toward a sustainable solution. As a result, he is pressing forward with the agenda of the Israeli right, which has long been clearly articulated by its leaders. Their view has been, unabashedly, a single Israeli state in all the territory Israel now controls, with Palestinians contained and controlled within a series of disconnected cantons.

That policy means holding the West Bank and East Jerusalem in perpetuity while denying citizenship, along with basic rights, to the Palestinian people living there. If that is the policy that Israel pursues, then it must explain to the world how it justifies a system that is unmistakably reminiscent of apartheid.

It will not be an easy case to make, and it certainly will not be a popular one. But given the fact that, at this writing, there has been no notable response to Netanyahu’s words, it might not be very hard for him to sustain the policy he seems to be proposing.

Last month, during the height of the tensions raised over the status of the Temple Mount, I met with a high-ranking official in the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem. In discussing the impasse in peace talks, he posed the following question: “As an Israeli, if I am to agree to a Palestinian state, is it not fair that I know what will be on the other side?”

It’s a reasonable question. After all, can we expect Israel to consent to an arrangement if they don’t have some assurance that it won’t lead to even more attacks? Once we unravel the context of that rhetorical question, however, we get to one of the root causes of the endless nature of this occupation.

The point the official made to me was based on the view that Israeli security demands that Palestinians prove they can be trusted with their own freedom. This is a logic that is broadly accepted. Yet it rests on certain assumptions.

The first assumption is that Palestinians are either not entitled to or have somehow forfeited the rights Americans consider fundamental and inalienable. Many of us in the West have a greater measure of freedom than most, and we generally hold to the idea that human rights, civic rights and rights of individual liberty are inalienable. True, most of us also believe that a crime can lead to an individual being forced to forfeit some of those rights, but you’d be hard pressed to find people who believe that an entire group of people can be denied their individual or collective rights because of the actions of a few members of their group.

Yet when it comes to the Palestinians, we seem to lose sight of this basic ethic. Of course, this is a situation of unsettled conflict, and in such circumstances, people are often put under martial law, or even besieged. But according to international norms, those are supposed to be temporary conditions. Indeed, the laws of military occupation (which Israel’s High Court has confirmed apply to the West Bank) exist precisely because occupation is understood to be a temporary condition, which all sides are striving to end.

Indeed, the blind eye the United States and, to a lesser extent, the European Union turn to Israel’s failure to fulfill its duties as an occupying power, in addition to the human rights issues that numerous Israeli groups have documented, are also an outgrowth of this view of the conflict. Even many who are sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight, whether out of fear of being seen as insensitive to the Jewish history of persecution or for purely political reasons, continue to treat basic Palestinian rights as subordinate to Israeli security concerns.

Israel’s argument that the territories in question are not occupied because they were not the sovereign territory of another state (in this case, Jordan) does not change the dilemma of the millions of Palestinians who exist on a daily basis without civic or national rights and whose human rights are routinely violated with impunity.

This is what needs to change before any serious progress can be made. Israeli security is of course important, but it cannot continue to serve to justify the violation of Palestinians’ basic rights. The current paradigm frames the issue as one where Israel’s security concerns are the first order of business, and in pursuing those concerns, Palestinian rights should be addressed. But the most basic ethical view demands the reverse: a framework that demands the same rights for Palestinians as for Israelis, and within pursuing that overarching goal, security for both peoples must be maximized.

If that framework is adopted, we have the potential for a solution because it demands that the occupation end, where the current one does not necessarily do that. Most of us can reluctantly accept that people live under occupation for a short time, and we hope that human rights monitors can be effective in policing the conduct of occupying powers. But there are no moral or ethical, let alone legal grounds for accepting endless occupation. If Israel truly wants to control all of the West Bank, then it must annex it all (not just the parts it wants) and grant full citizenship to all of its inhabitants. Otherwise, it must work diligently to end the occupation and establish a viable, secure and self-sufficient Palestinian state.

As tragic and outrageous as the stabbing of innocent civilians or the suicide bombings of years past or any other murder of Israelis may be, they cannot justify open-ended occupation for the millions of innocent Palestinians who had no part in any such crimes. But no outside party is enforcing this basic ground rule with Israel. It is thus no surprise that Netanyahu is advocating perpetual occupation.

This is where the attitude of the United States and its international partners must enter, and enter forcefully. Israel is a country whose populace feels itself to be under permanent siege and is led by a Prime Minister who has a long history of building his political base on a foundation of fear. Under those circumstances, it is not reasonable to expect Israel to willingly give up what it perceives as its security advantage in controlling the Palestinians.

The United States has long sided with Israel in resisting any kind of timetable for ending the occupation. This has to change. Just as there needs to be a sense of urgency about Israeli civilians being killed in the streets of Israel, there must be at least as much urgency about the Palestinian people getting the rights and freedoms that all of us are entitled to as human beings.

Netanyahu has, ironically, given the US and EU the opportunity to change the game. These bodies must respond to Bibi’s declaration of perpetual occupation by making it clear that the occupation must begin to be drawn down.

The process need not be instantaneous. An international security presence can begin to replace Israeli security forces in various parts of the West Bank as Palestinians continue to develop the infrastructure they will need for a functional government. Meanwhile, permanent borders, the status of Jerusalem and the questions of refugees, the Jewish identity of Israel and mutual economic, water and security agreements can be worked out. It amounts to a phased Israeli withdrawal, with constant security adjustments and steady increases in Palestinian freedom. Such a process, however, can only succeed with robust international participation, led by the United States,

Until now, too much of the international diplomatic framework has been centered on what is best for Israel. Yes, it is important to make the argument that the occupation is the single biggest obstacle to a normal existence for Israel; that it is diverting resources from the Israeli public; and that it is rotting Israel’s moral structure from the inside. These are powerful arguments that should help incentivize Israelis to end the occupation.

But the more crucial moral argument is that millions of Palestinians live under occupation, and have done so for more than 48 years now. As those years have progressed, the occupation has not normalized or relaxed, but has grown even more restrictive and oppressive. This is a horrible reality, and obscuring it behind attacks on Israelis is a massive injustice to the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who want nothing more than to live normal lives without fear but with hope and opportunity. That is an argument that has been sadly neglected.

As long as the moral and political questions of ending the occupation revolve so strongly about Israel’s concerns, legitimate though those may be, Netanyahu can find his justification for advocating occupation without end. And he will find an audience that will not berate him for it. Once the question is properly framed around both Israeli security and Palestinian rights and freedom, such options cannot be considered, and progress can reasonably be expected.

Issue Brief: BDS In Perspective

In the ten years since it commenced, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has slowly but steadily risen in visibility. Today, both the Israeli government and some in the U.S. are presenting it as an existential threat to Israel. Therefore, it is important to determine exactly what we’re talking about when we discuss BDS and it is equally important that we take a critical look at what its real impact is.

The movement began in July 2005 with a joint call from a wide array of Palestinian civil society organizations, with three main demands: An end to the occupation that began in 1967; equal rights for Palestinians citizens within Israel; and protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is today Israel. The call was issued during the second intifada in part to present a non-violent alternative to what was perceived as the failure of armed struggle to achieve these goals.

The term “BDS” is widely understood to refer to the network of grassroots activists who are part of a global movement responding to this call to encourage boycotts of, divestment from, and ultimately international sanctions against Israel to achieve these goals. Groups and individuals involved in this network hold a variety of views on ultimate solutions to the conflict, but it is fair to say that the most visible leaders of the BDS movement generally support a vision of a single, secular and democratic state in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

This movement – its goals and its activism – is distinct from the many peace activists in Israel, Palestine, the United States and elsewhere, who confine their efforts to calls for boycotts of settlement products and divestment from businesses profiting from the 48-year old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Those groups take great pains to confine their efforts to Israel’s settlements and its occupation, while avoiding any such actions against Israel within its internationally recognized boundaries.

Crucially, the BDS movement is also distinct from recent actions by the European Union and the governments of many member states to distinguish between Israel within the pre-1967 lines – known as the Green Line – and the occupied territories. A July 2015 report by the European Council on Foreign Relations emphasizes that these actions and policies do not represent a policy shift by the European Union, but simply more faithful adherence to the EU’s existing laws.

Blurring the Green Line: Netanyahu, Congress and BDS working together

The key distinction is between Israel within the Green Line, and the occupied territories. Israel is understandably concerned about the potential consequences of Europe, its largest trading partner, more energetically enforcing their laws that make this distinction. For years, the EU has looked the other way on these regulations in the hope that the occupation would soon end and that the differentiation between Israel and the settlements would become moot.

More recently, as the peace process has stalled, the EU has renewed an effort to begin enforcing their existing laws more aggressively. The labeling of products imported from the settlements, rather than from Israel, is only the first step in this process. These laws are fully consistent with long-standing American policy that similarly does not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, unless and until their status is redefined in negotiations.

In Washington, the issue of BDS tends to be exaggerated, inflating the threat Israel faces apparently in order to produce legislation that would fundamentally alter the character of US foreign policy. For example, with the ostensible intention of protecting Israel from BDS, a provision was added to the recently passed Trade Promotion Authority bill (the so-called “fast track legislation) that requires the U.S. Trade Representative to discourage European Union countries from boycotting “Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories” as part of free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU.

The amendment treats Israel and the occupied territories as one unit, erasing the Green Line. Israel extends its law over its settlements, and many Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, regard the settlements as Israeli neighborhoods. However, neither the United States nor any other country has ever accepted this, and has always differentiated between the settlements and Israel proper. Blurring this important distinction could set a dangerous precedent for treating Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 lines no differently from the internationally recognized State of Israel. At the very least, it would create confusion amongst the United States’ allies as to what US policy regarding the occupied territories and their ultimate disposition really is.

It is important to recall that U.S. law already protects Israel against boycotts initiated by foreign governments. The Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 were enacted to protect Israel from the Arab League’s boycott against the State of Israel. The amendment to the fast-track bill adds nothing in this regard. Rather, it serves only one purpose: protecting settlements from pressure. This motivated the quiet lobbying the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) did to push this amendment.

Ironically, this very conflation is precisely what the most radical elements in the BDS movement strive to achieve. Those who believe that the only solution to the conflict is the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the creation of a single state in its place reject any distinction between, for example, the settlement of Ariel in the occupied territories and the city of Tel Aviv.  Similarly, those who support a messianic vision of “Greater Israel,” which requires permanent Israeli control of the occupied territories, reject any distinction between Haifa and the settlements inside Hebron.  For those who support a two-state solution that includes a secure, democratic and Jewish state of Israel living side by side with a secure, viable and independent Palestinian state, this conflation is extremely problematic.

What is the real impact of the global BDS movement?

There is no evidence that the European Union’s policies and actions regarding settlements are based on the actions of the BDS movement. On the contrary, it is the collapse of the peace process, the deepening of Israel’s occupation and the possible foreclosure of the two-state solution that have motivated these European moves.

In a letter to European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini in April, sixteen European Foreign Ministers urged the labelling of products originating in the settlements, writing that: “European consumers must indeed have confidence in knowing the origin of goods they are purchasing. Green Line Israel and Palestinian producers will benefit from this.” Far from being motivated by the BDS movement, the ministers made it clear that it was the stalled peace process that provided the impetus for their recommendation. The goal was, in their words, “the preservation of the two-state solution.”

Likewise in the United States, the most prominent examples of concrete boycott- and divestment-related activism in the Israeli-Palestinian arena have focused unambiguously not on Israel but on the settlements and the occupation. These developments are the product of frustration with the failure of diplomacy to bring an end to the occupation, and a desire to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.

As in Europe, the actions involved are distinct from the efforts and goals of the BDS movement. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) heard a great deal from the BDS movement over the years in which it debated the decision it eventually adopted in 2014 to divest from companies it believed were profiting from Israel’s occupation. Yet the Church made it clear in its decision that it was not acting in concert with the BDS movement, but from its own principles – and it focused its activism not on Israel, but explicitly on the occupied territories.

After the vote to divest, PC (USA) issued a statement saying, “[O]ur action to selectively divest was not in support of the global BDS movement. Instead it is one of many examples of our commitment to ethical investing. We are pressed and challenged to follow our faith values and commitments in all times and in all areas of our lives. The occupation must end. All peoples in Israel and Palestine should live in security, freedom, and peace. This action is but one aspect of our commitment to work to this end.”

PC (USA) went on to explicitly reiterate its support for the existence of the State of Israel and for the two-state solution, clarifying that, “This action on divestment is not to be construed or represented by any organization of the PC (USA) as divestment from the State of Israel, or an alignment with or endorsement of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement.”

As of today, the BDS movement, in and of itself, is not a threat to Israel, either economically or in terms of security. The main impact of the BDS movement has been in generating an often-divisive debate, on American campuses, among academics faced with campaigns for academic boycotts and in getting a handful of celebrities to cancel or publicly declare their intent not to perform in Israel.

A very unfortunate response to the BDS movement has been the refusal, in many instances, to allow BDS activists to speak their piece in open debate. This attempt at ostracization, however, has backfired. It has provided the basis for the BDS movement to promote itself on free speech grounds, an argument which wins much more widespread sympathy than one that proposes economic action against Israel.

Moreover, the focus on the BDS movement too often ignores the main reason for its continued growth: the failure to end Israel’s occupation that began in 1967 and achieve Palestinian national liberation and sovereignty. The surest way to take the wind out of the BDS sails would be to work diligently to achieve those goals, and act against efforts that prevent them. An independent, sovereign and viable Palestine sharing peace, trade and security with Israel removes the impetus for both BDS and the often overly aggressive tactics being employed against it.

Check out the Issue Brief at the FMEP web site.

Danny Danon: Fierce Opponent of a Two-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the Likud Party’s Danny Danon, currently the Minister of Science, to the position of UnitedDanny Danon Israel Day ConcertNations envoy. Danon, a man who Netanyahu fired only last year because of his “loose cannon” actions, seems an odd choice for a diplomatic position of any kind.

Danon seems particularly ill suited for the role of UN Envoy due to his outspoken and uncompromising opposition to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, something virtually the entire world supports. Danon is not afraid to make this clear either. Here are his own words in recent years. Read them and judge for yourself what message Netanyahu is sending by appointing Danon to this post.

“There is place only for one state on the land of Israel…. I do not believe in a two-state solution.” –Al Jazeera

“I will use my strength and influence to convince as many people as I can within the party and outside the party that a Palestinian state is bad news for Israel.” – The Forward

“Even if there will be a vote [at the UN on a Palestinian state], it will be a Facebook state. They will have a lot of likes in the Facebook, but it will not change the lives of the Israelis, the Jewish pioneers, who live in the hills of Judea and Samaria.” – The New Republic

“An independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would pose a grave threat to Israel.” – Fox News

“There was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution…if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.” – Times of Israel

“Enough with the two-state-solution. Land-for-peace is over. We don’t want a Palestinian State. We need to apply Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It’s been about 20 years since the Oslo Accords. That’s finished and now we’re ready for new ideas…We are a nationalist government and not a government that will establish a Palestinian government on 1967 lines.” – Arutz 7

“If you go to the Arab-populated cities in Judea and Samaria, you will hear them speaking like they do in Jordan. It’s the same with the Arabs of Gaza and their connection to Egypt.” – Arutz 7

“Our goal should be to annex the maximum land with the minimum Arab population,” he said of the West Bank. “We should speak about our rights and not apologize for it. We have biblical rights, historical rights, rights according to international law. We also have common-sense rights: We won the war.” – JTA

On building in E Jerusalem: “The international community can say whatever they want, and we can do whatever we want.” –Times of Israel

Jerusalem of Tarnished Gold

Take a particularly provocative and grandstanding Israeli government and shift its focus from Hamas and Gaza to Jerusalem and you have a 8148113621_de93dc64a3_kmost explosive recipe. That potion is being stirred now, and the results could shake up the status quo in a way that we have only seen a few times in Israel’s history.

Much of the recent news narrative starts with the wounding of Yehuda Glick, a US expat who emigrated to Israel as child and became one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed “Temple Mount Movement.” In reality, this chapter of the endless and bloody saga of the Old City of Jerusalem began with the last Israeli election. That poll brought into power the most radically right-wing of Israeli governments, representing an odd mixture of zealous Zionism, modern Orthodoxy in Judaism and a curious impulse to completely disregard centuries of Jewish law regarding the Temple Mount. We’ll get back to that later, but first it’s important to recognize the potential fallout from further escalation.

The recall of Jordan’s ambassador to Israel is no small matter, and it reflects just how important this issue is to the Hashemite kingdom. Despite having lost the West Bank to Israel in 1967 and having relinquished its claim to it in 1988, Jordan is still the guardian of the Jerusalem holy sites for the Muslim world. This status is precious to the Hashemites, and the prestige it brings is a crucial element for their continued hold on power.

The Israeli threats have escalated steadily since the election and then ticked up sharply in the spring, when the Netanyahu government began its anti-Hamas crackdown throughout the West Bank, under the false cover of searching for kidnap victims the Israelis already knew had been brutally murdered. Tensions and demonstrations in Jerusalem were escalating throughout the summer, while everyone’s attention was, quite understandably, focused on Gaza.

This was the inevitable result of an intensely nationalistic government believing it had finally done away with the façade of negotiations in which Jerusalem was a central issue. Brazen statements, provocative visits, and then crackdowns and harsher limits on Palestinian worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque were all to be expected.

One question that these events raise is whether this is the intention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or the result of his unwillingness to challenge his coalition partners and members of his own party on a passionately populist issue. I tend to lean toward the latter belief, as Netanyahu has usually shown himself to be the sort of leader who does nothing unless he’s pressured by politics. In either case, the Israeli actions have raised concerns from Washington to Brussels to Cairo and, most resoundingly, to Amman.

Despite the peace treaty with Israel being massively unpopular in Jordan, where the majority of the citizens are Palestinian, it has not been a cause for major internal upheaval. For Jordan, peace has not only brought financial and diplomatic support from the United States, it has also opened up a new market with Israel, which exports goods to Jordan and thereby to the rest of the Arab world, despite the ongoing regional boycott against Israel.


But now there is unrest and unease in Jordan. King Abdullah’s support of the United States’ efforts against the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) has helped rile some of the more radical elements in Jordan, adding to the tensions that already existed between the government and more mainstream Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The country is undergoing a severe economic crisis, with massive unemployment, even while it is also burdened with refugees from Syria and Iraq, many of whom have sharp complaints about their treatment.

These conditions make Jordan a tinderbox. And Jerusalem is just as sure a fuse for a Jordanian tinderbox as it is for an Israeli-Palestinian one. These are the factors that led King Abdullah to recall his ambassador from Israel. Only once before, when Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Jordan, has peace between Jordan and Israel been so threatened.

The Israelis have surely given this consideration, but they likely estimate that Jordan would not dare abrogate its treaty with Israel. Such a move would surely endanger Jordan’s support from the US, and that could be fatal if, indeed, internal conflict does break out in the Hashemite kingdom. Ultimately, Israel probably believes that unless it tries to threaten the authority of the Islamic Waqf, which is the body that administrates the Temple Mount, or otherwise officially changes the status quo of the area, Jordan will not withdraw from the treaty.

That’s a reasonable assessment, but it should not be banked on too strongly. Given the precarious situation in Jordan, its leadership’s main concern now is avoiding an outbreak of civil conflict altogether. Even though the Jordanian military is far superior to that of, say, Iraq, a popular uprising triggered by conflict over the Jerusalem holy sites could quickly spread to encompass the mass dissatisfaction with both the economic conditions and Hashemite rule in the country in general. Abdullah does not want to gamble on his ability to contain all of that anger. Though unlikely, that concern does give him a reason to potentially take the bold step of ending peace with Israel, and deal with the consequences of that step later.

For Israel, such an outcome would mean near-total isolation again. Even the Sisi government in Egypt would have a difficult time continuing to work with Israel all by itself. Egyptians remember well the isolation they experienced from the rest of the Arab world after their treaty with Israel was first struck. It took a very long time, even after they were re-admitted into the Arab League, for Egypt to regain a position of some stature in the Arab world.

New Path

The entire approach the international community has taken toward Jerusalem needs to re-evaluated, and quickly. For years, Israel has treated Jerusalem as a flashpoint it could manipulate for nationalistic reasons, and for a long time, young Palestinian Muslims (sometimes all of them under the age of 50, other times the cutoff age has been as low as 35) have been unable to go to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque. To be sure, there have also been many incidents of Palestinians using Friday prayers as a launching pad for protests and stone-throwing, sometimes down the hill at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.

Israeli soldiers and police blocking Palestinians from one of the entrances to the old city in Jerusalem. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

Israeli soldiers and police blocking Palestinians from one of the entrances to the old city in Jerusalem on March 14, 2010. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

Now, Jerusalem is being used by different parts of Israel’s governing coalition. The further right elements are crystallizing nationalist fervor around it. Netanyahu, for his part, is using the violence that Israeli actions are stirring up to blame Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas as part of his campaign to convince people that all of Israel’s opponents—IS, Iran, Hamas, and the PA as led by Abbas—are essentially the same enemy of not only Israel, but the entire world. And, of course, Hamas, and Fatah as well, are using the Israeli actions as a rallying cry, spurring people to both organized and individual acts of resistance and/or terrorism.

But it’s high time reality set in and we understood this to be an issue of nationalism manipulating religion to its ends. Many of the Jewish Temple Mount activists claim that they are pursuing a civil rights issue. After all, they argue, if the Muslim right to pray at their third holiest site is sacrosanct, shouldn’t the Jewish right to pray at their holiest site be at least as high a priority?

Sorry, but that’s not what this is about. Religious Zionism has twisted many Jewish precepts over the years. But even Israel’s chief rabbis have reiterated continuously that Jews must not pray on the Temple Mount or even walk upon it for fear of treading upon the area of the Holiest of Holies, which was inside the Temple and where only the High Priest may enter.

Religious Zionists are split on this issue, as some religious leaders have, in a rather arbitrary fashion, decided that going up to the Temple Mount is acceptable. And, it must be noted, that this notion is an entirely modern phenomenon. It is only in recent years that even religious Zionists have tried to completely negate this particular tenet of Jewish tradition, which has been undisputed for most of our history.

As with so many issues regarding Israel, this is not about Judaism. In fact, it’s not about the terms of much of mainstream Zionism, either. It is a brazen effort by far-right nationalists, some because of a radicalized messianism, some with more secular motivations, to lay claim to Jewish rule over Jerusalem as a whole. It is of a piece with the escalating efforts by Jewish Israelis to spread the colonization of East Jerusalem in the hope of making a unified, Jewish Jerusalem a fait accompli.

Israel is playing with fire on a number of levels here, with the Palestinians and with the broader Arab and Muslim worlds. Thus far, the government has been justified in its belief that the United States and Europe would do nothing more than issue the usual condemnations, not recognizing that Israel’s actions could make compromise on Jerusalem a practical impossibility.

But at some point the US and EU must recognize that if Israel continues to increase its antagonism on the issue of Jerusalem, it’s going to radicalize a lot more than just the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, as well as complicate their efforts against IS and other concerns in the Arab World. If they don’t take some action to reign Israel in soon, they will also be paying the consequences.

It Couldn’t Be Clearer

The photo here, linked to the Ha’aretz article from which it comes, makes it as clear as you could want just how threatening the new Givat Hamatossettlement, Givat Hamatos is. It doesn’t threaten “peace”; it doesn’t “call into question Israel’s commitment to peace.” Few have any illusions anymore that Israel has any interest in peace.

What it does is to expand Israel’s presence into Jerusalem. That will bury the old formula for Jerusalem (according to the Clinton Parameters, Jerusalem would be divided according to the formula “what is Jewish is Israel’s, what is Arab is Palestine’s). That may not be a very big deal. But it extends Israel’s grip on the eastern part of the city and, as you can see fro the map, future settlements can easily be placed in strategic positions to surround Arab villages…much as settlements do in the rest of the West Bank.

The US reaction is completely shameful. It’s worse than the usual kowtowing or tongue-clucking. In this case, the US reaction makes it clear that the Obama Administration knows full well just how damaging Givat Hamatos is, and STILL will not do a thing to stop it, but will continue to obstruct other parties (chiefly the UNSC but also the EU) from acting.