Dubai: The Israeli government’s plan to develop a disputed area (E1) near occupied east Jerusalem triggered on Monday the fury of several western countries as well as the United Nations, in a reaction described by Palestinian analysts as “politically stripping Israel naked”.
Strongly worded criticism came from the US, Israel’s strategic ally, while both Britain and France summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their capitals on Sunday to protest the expansion of colonies.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also strongly criticised the Israeli plan, calling it an “almost fatal blow” to chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians.
“For the first time, Israel is politically naked,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), based in occupied east Jerusalem.
The Americans and the Europeans revealed their support to Israel after the “humiliating defeat for the Israelis in their war on Gaza, the 128 countries’ endorsement of the Palestinian bid for non-member state at the UN, and the stubbornness and madness of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu on the colonies,” Abdul Hadi told Gulf News.
Last Thursday, the Palestinians won the support of the majority of the UN General Assembly members to change their status to that of non-member observer state. The move was strongly criticised by Israel and rejected by the US.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced halting the tax payments Israel is collecting for the Palestinians in response to the UN vote. The amount, according to Israeli media, was 460 million shekels (Dh442 million).
Also, a day after the UN vote, the Israeli government announced its approval for the building of 3,000 housing units in the large colonies.
“It is unfathomable that a prime minister would behave the way Netanyahu behaved,” US President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was quoted by the Israeli media as saying in a closed-door think-tank meeting in Washington, DC.
Emanuel was also quoted as saying Obama would no longer accept disrespect from Netanyahu.
“It became obvious that the Netanyahu’s cabinet has pushed the western supporting government to reach a conclusion that the Israeli government is not interested in the peace process and is acting against the international law,” said Palestinian columnist and political analyst Jehad Harb.
“These [western] governments can’t support these practices”, especially the colonial policies, which contradict the principle of the two-state solution, Harb told Gulf News.
During its military campaign against Gaza last month, Israel received the backing of the western governments to “defend itself” against the rockets attacks launched from the Strip.
Likud’s leader Netanyahu, later, clarified to his Likud ministers that the government gave the green light for zoning and planning in the area known as E1 between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, the main Israeli colony near occupied east Jerusalem, but not to actual construction there.
His comments were interpreted by Israeli media as a “signal to the “Palestinians that if they go further with the type of unilateral actions they took at the UN on Thursday, Israel would indeed build in E1.”
Israeli politician Ben-Eliezer, who is a Labor member of the Knesset, was quoted as warning “the world was losing its patience with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s irresponsible policies.”
He called the Israeli announcement “a badly-timed decision”.
“The world is telling Israel ‘enough,’ and the fact that friendly states like Britain and France are considering recalling their ambassadors is a long-reaching issue that can lead to international isolation,” Ben-Eliezer said.
Other Palestinian analysts agreed.
The western anger over the Israeli colonial policy is the “beginning of exposing the right-wing government in Israel and to keep alive the two-state solution before it is too late,” Abdul Hadi said.
While some analysts believe the timing of Netanyahu’s announcement aimed to further gain the support of the “religious fundamentalists” in next month’s Israeli elections, others expressed a different opinion.
“The Israeli elections map has fluid borders and nothing is guaranteed until the last minute,” Abdul Hadi said.
“Israeli colonial policy has been going on during the past two years and not only with the latest decision,” Harb said.
The future of the Israeli colonies in the Palestinian territories occupied in the 1967 war was among the thorny issues left for the final stage of the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
“Netanyahu is trying to tell the Israeli people that the occupation is still there, and that the Israeli government is still practically the one who is controlling the Palestinian territories, and nothing has changed after the UN vote,” Harb added.