Israeli Settlements and American Security


Once again the Israeli policy and practice of constructing settlements in the West Bank is undermining the peace process, and causing a rift in US-Israeli relations. Prime Minister Netanyahu is defiantly rejecting US demands that he stop recently announced plans to build yet another Israeli apartment complex in Eastern Jerusalem, and there is intense pressure on the Obama administration to back off and paper over the difference. It should not do so.

The occupied territories of the West Bank were captured by Israel in the 1967 war against Egypt and Jordan. The continued occupation is in violation of the international law principle against the acquisition of territory by conquest. It has been condemned as such time and again by resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, often with affirmative votes by the United States. Its illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice. Yet Israel not only continues to occupy it, but over decades has sought to colonize parts of the territory, including Eastern Jerusalem, as part of a plan to change the "facts on the ground", such that when the state of Palestine is eventually established, it will be impossible to return these settled areas to the Palestinians. There are now over 300,000 Israeli's living in settlements within the occupied territories, many of them within the controversial "security barrier" built by Israel in the last decade.

As has been pointed out recently, the change in the political context is that Israelis no longer think that land-for-peace is essential to Israeli interests, while peace and a two-state solution is increasingly seen by Americans as essential to US national security. Hence the growing tension between the two countries. But in the Islamic world the US is still seen as heavily biased in favour of Israel, and if the Obama administration again blinks on the settlement issue, the cause of peace will be irreparably harmed - and indeed American national security will be further jeopardized. American support for what is viewed as a deeply unjust oppression of the Palestinian people is a ready recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and other anti-American Islamic organizations.

Forcing Israel to the peace negotiations, and to freeze its colonizing efforts as part of that process, is not just in American national security interests, but is ultimately in the interest of Israel too. If Netanyahu's government has to fall as a result, so be it. If Isreal's current trajectory is not altered it runs the risk of becoming a pariah nation. Last week it was called a"rogue state" in the British House of Commons. The time has come to force Israel to live up to its ideal of being a democracy, a nation of laws based on the rule of law, and a state that can live in peaceful coexistence with an independent Palestine. And it is time Americans understood that continuing to pander to Israeli preferences in the so-called peace process will make increase the threats to US national security. - Gamma



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