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Israel plans a new settlement in West Bank amid dismantling of Amona Outpost. (Image via https://sputniknews.com/)

Dr Ibrahim Natil discusses Netanyahu's controversial approval of massive building plans in the occupied Palestinian territory defying the the UN and the international community.

DESPITE DECEMBER'S UN Security Council Resolution2334 (2016), the current government of Israel still defies the international community and approves massive building plans cross the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

The international community realises that this government is an obstacle for a negotiated peace compromise by imposing more challenges by building more settlements in the OPT, including East Jerusalem. The member states of the UN Security Council approved the resolution after they fully believed that the current Government of Israel had no interest in ending the occupation of the Territories that began in 1967. The resolution comes to reaffirm that there is still a room for a two states solution — Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. It also affirms that it would not recognise any changes made by the Israeli on the ground. It demanded that Israel immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the 4 June 1967 lines, including Jerusalem.

Massive plans of illegal settlements

Netanyahu’s government still believes it is above the international law because the Resolution 2334 has no effective power to enforce Israel to stop its illegal activities of building more settlements. In other words, the resolution has no a clear mechanism to follow up or report to the council or propose imposing any sentences on Israel. Netanyahu’s government is already composed of an alliance of political parties engaging and supporting the settlements policy. The settlers are main supporters for this government and some ministers live in settlements of the West Bank. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers have controlled the West Bank over the years and are given significant subsidies to move to the settlements. In other words, if this government concedes its main policy of expansion of settlements, it will collapse from within. Just a few hours after the swearing of U.S. president, Donald Trump, Netanyahu's government approved 2,500 new housing units for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

This defiance in building another 5,000 units is one of the largest in years and a comprehensive rejection of Resolution 2334, which described settlement building as a clear violation of international law and an impediment to a two states solution. The spokesman for the UN Secretary-General raised concerns over the unilateral actions of Israeli Government to advance over 5,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank and called on both parties to return to meaningful negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and in accordance with international law, in order to address all final status issues. But Israel benefits from the current circumstances in the Middle East and OPT in particular and believes that it can maintain the status quo of occupation and settlement building.

Israeli defiance and its challenge to the international community was confirmed when a secret Israeli envoy to Ramallah and Amman dropped a message to the Palestinian President Abass that two States solution was over as leaks confirmed by some Arabic sources, including Rai Alyoum, recently.

Massive destruction

The Israeli Government has a dual policy of rebuilding settlements and destroying as much as possible of Palestinian houses over various locations not only in the West Bank, but also the Palestinian Arabs living in Israel with Israeli citizenship. The Israeli authorities do not discriminate between Palestinians wherever they live. In 2012-2014, Israeli authorities issued 1,336 demolition orders, 97% of them against Palestinians, who compose 20% of Israel’s population. In January 2017, some demolition orders targeted entire Palestinian villages, as happened recently in the Bedouin village of Um Al Heiran to build a new Jewish town. The Israeli authorities also destroyed 11 Palestinian houses in one day in the village of Qalansawah, near Tel Aviv. In the West Bank, the Israeli authorities destroyed 1,089 Palestinian sites, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and damaging the livelihoods of 7,101 in the West Bank. The Israeli municipality also demolished hundreds of Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem since its occupation in 1967. It has already undertaken a policy of collective punishment in Jabal al-Mukabber and issued some 40 demolition orders

Challenges of Gaza reconstruction

The massive destruction in Gaza was also carried out two years ago, after the Israeli air forces bombed the Strip for 51 days in summer 2014 and left massive destruction of already impoverished infrastructure (11,000 housing units destroyed and 100,000 homeless and displaced). Israel still controls the rebuilding process, despite the involvement of the UN and the Palestinian Authority. It allows for certain amount of cement and other materials to be channelled to the Strip. There are now more than 60,000 still waiting their houses to rebuild, despite some Gulf states donated to build the destroyed houses. Tens of international humanitarian and civil society organisations. Society Voice Foundation funded by Human Rights Secretariat carried out recently an international campaign to raise the victims concerns from a very slow process of rebuilding Gaza Strip because it caused a lot of social and economic suffering and problems.

These circumstances have already complicated the political landscape and accumulated uncertainty to the Palestinian context.

Uncertain policy

Today, the Palestinian Authority lives unprecedented political moments of uncertainty due to ongoing events in the region and the global politics after the arrival of new U.S. president, who delivers an endless support to the current Israeli Government and who committed to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, contradicting Obama’s administration that abstained to veto the UN Resolution 2334.

However, the PLO’s chief negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat retaliated:

"We'll de-recognize Israel if embassy moves."

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) believes that settlements and moving the embassy impose a major obstacle and impediments for an independent Palestinian State according to the international law. However, many observers believe that the PLO and PA could not take any actions or political steps to stop the settlements or moving the embassy to Jerusalem without genuine support from major actors in the region or and the world.

In brief, Israel’s actions on the grounds of building more settlements have already killed the two states solution and made it undoable without a fast and genuine intervention from international community, going beyond the condemnation of Israeli actions. Israel should feel that it loses economically and politically at different levels including all international platforms.

Dr. Ibrahim Natil is a Research Fellow at the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, Dublin City University. He is also a Human Rights Campaigner and was nominated for the Tällberg Foundation Global Leadership Prize 2016. You can follow Ibrahim on Twitter @Natilibrahim.

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