Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Netanyahu announces settlement "freeze"

Netanyahu has announced a ten month settlement freeze. A "settlement freeze" that will only apply to the West Bank and will not include east Jerusalem, which will only apply to new construction and will mean that housing already underway will continue. Moreover, not only will existing construction of housing not be stopped but Israel will also continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements.

The Palestinians have, quite rightly, been quick to condemn the announcement, which obviously does not represent a moratorium and which would effectively deprive them of east Jerusalem. However, I wonder if they are aware of the how serious the implications might be if they were to be fooled into negotiating before their demands for a complete stop on construction in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem are met. This would be more than just a tactical error on the part of the Palestinians, it would also be seen as a tacit recognition of certain facts on the ground and once that recognition takes place, we would soon have de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty over what is de jure, Palestinian land. That is why, it really is five to midnight for the Palestinians and there can be no compromises whatsoever when it comes to their rights under international law.

Netanyahu's announcement is an insult and it really isn't enough for Palestinians to reject it by saying that it offers nothiing new. It is time to scream that there can be no negotiations before Israel starts to comply with international law and the first step in complying with international law has to be a complete and immediate cessation of construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a precusor to a complete withdrawal. 

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