Sunday, March 1, 2009

Israel settlements in, Palestinians out

Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has uncovered a plan for a massive expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank region of Palestine.

B'Tselem used a freedom of information request to get access to the plans to add nearly 10,000 more housing units to settlements around Jerusalem. One of the commitments they agreed to under the ‘roadmap to peace’ that has guided peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine was that Israel would put a halt to building settlements in the occupied territories. It’s a commitment they have yet to live up to.

And while Israel is planning to move more settlers into the West Bank, they’re also taking steps to move Palestinians out. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called for a general strike in the West Bank on Saturday to protest Israeli plans to evict nearly 100 Palestinian families from Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood next to Jerusalem’s holy sites. The Israelis say the homes have to go because they were built illegally without permits. The Palestinians counter that the Israelis make it practically impossible for them to get permits, so illegal construction their only option. And while officials in Jerusalem said there were no immediate plans to forcibly evict the Palestinians, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that the area in question in Silwan has been designated to become a park.

Finally, the chances for a unity coalition government seem to have died on Friday when Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni gave a final ‘no’ on the idea of joining forces with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. What sank the deal seems to have been Netanyahu’s refusal to agree with Livni’s demands that the new Israel government continue pursuing a ‘two-state’ solution with the Palestinians. Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to have some self-rule, but his idea is for something a lot less like an independent country and a lot more like an American Indian reservation - Netanyahu wants Israel to keep control of the borders, airspace, resources and security of a future Palestinian ‘state’.

With Livni out, Netanyahu will likely cobble together a coalition of far-right and orthodox parties, ones who will insist on a hard-line with the Palestinians, something that is sure to put the new Netanyahu government at odds with the US and Pres. Obama who remain committed to the two-state solution.
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