The recent multi-million cash injection by the Israeli government into bolstering its colonies in the West Bank is surely further evidence that it doesn’t want to give up on the Occupied Territories, not now or ever. This is the sad and naked truth as we learn that $18.6 million (Dh68.41 million) is being added to the colony budget, in addition to the $88 million pledged last year.
With one stroke of a pen, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its extreme zealots are pouring money, willy-nilly, into bolstering its colonies in Palestinian areas that it is supposed to have given up under the peace accords — which, of course, are no longer worth the ink they were printed with.
Indeed, Israel is now, and has been, exploiting the effective freeze of the decades-old, so-called peace process to consolidate its grip on the Occupied Territories by bolstering its colonies that currently number around 230 in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, which includes around 600,000 Israelis.
The figures are indeed mind-boggling and do not speak of a government that is really serious about leaving the West Bank and whose occasional rhetoric is meant to placate the Americans, Europeans and the larger international community who are angered by the colony activity, which is seen as a slap in the face to those involved in the limping peace process.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon adequately described the colonies as “an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community”. Israel has been criticised by none other than its erstwhile ally, the United States, through its ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who was critical of Israel’s “two standards of adherence to the rule of law”, with members of the current US administration, describing the colonies as “illegitimate”.
But this has clearly been falling on deaf ears as proved by the latest financial earmarks to West Bank colonies and the fact that on June 15, the Israeli municipal authority gave the go-ahead for colonists to build new illegal units in occupied East Jerusalem.
Furthermore, and this may be one reason for Israel’s strident, bullying approach, is the fact that the international community gets tangled up in its bureaucratic procedures, ambivalence and pipe dream. Take, for instance, the recent appointment of the Israeli UN representative, Danny Danon, to head its prestigious General Assembly’s Sixth Committee dealing with international legal affairs.
What is baffling the world community is that the UN has consistently been criticising Israel for violating international law and now it allows it to head one of its most important committees. Surely, this comes down to the “banal, facetious and nonsensical”, as one German commentator, Sylke Tempel, described Israel’s colony-expansion policy.
What is especially worrying is the new and more abrasive approach the Netanyahu government is taking towards the colonies in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which can be called extended colonies with long arteries eating into the lands in the Occupied Territories. They are indeed creating real facts on the ground, while the peace process lies in limbo.
It’s a curious situation with a Palestinian government straddled in Ramallah, and unable to do anything on the ground simply because it is Israel that is in the driving seat with its huge army to back its political and economic power.
What is laughable as well, and this again is in contradiction to international law, is that Israel does not recognise the fact that it’s an occupying power, but openly categorises the West Bank as disputed territory and once this is solved through negotiations then it will “rethink” the colony issue with Jordan, who controlled the territories until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
What is happening on the ground in the West Bank is creeping Judaisation, regardless of the peace commitments or accords that Israel had signed with the Palestinians years ago. The tough-nosed approach of Netanyahu is being criticised by Israeli politicians like Ehud Barak, former leader of the Labor Party, who warned that Israel had been “infected by the seeds of fascism”.
Obama also said that what was happening with regard to the boosting of colonies was “a slow and cunning advancement of the one-state solution agenda ... that would lead ... to an apartheid state or a bi-national state in which the Jews will become a minority within a couple of generations”.
Clearly, Netanyahu doesn’t care about the long-term implications, but concerns himself with the present, which is to fill the colonies, create new ones and have a better grip on the Occupied Territories, regardless of peace or of the Palestinian National Authority, which means the two-state solution is effectively blocked for now and in the long run.
Marwan Asmar is a political commentator based in Amman. He has long worked in journalism and has a PhD in Political Science from Leeds University in the UK.