Netanyahu's cat and mouse game with the West over its occupation and development of Palestinian land is finally hitting a snag. Netanyahu's tenure is a debris field of bad intention and false commitments.  At the end of the day,  no matter what agreements are signed, Israel's prime minister always ends up moving his construction crews somewhere to begin new settlements.

The international community, and the European community in tow, with Germany particularly concerned, has voiced regret and lately a condemnation of Netanyahu's reckless pursuit of settlements in the West Bank.  

At issue is the fact that the Prime Minister continues to take land that is on the Palestinian side of the international demarcation line, which implies the obvious and forceful expropriation of land on the Palestinian side, often with the use of tanks and other military action.  

A grass root movement is growing inside Israel to stop the forced expropriation of land from the Palestinians, with some young Israeli now even refusing to join the compulsory army stint as a form of protest against unlawful settlements. 

Germany in particular has warned Netanyahu to stop proceeding in a manner that is forcing many Palestinians into abject poverty and statelessness, and has intimated to the Prime Minister to not recreate a Gaza like environment in the West Bank.  The Gaza strip is little more than a confinement zone, where Palestinians are all but at the complete mercy of Israeli largesse or lack thereof and now live in such abject conditions that the United Nations is considering the imposition of sanctions on Israel to bring the settlements to a halt. 

However, there are some countries that are refusing to acknowledge the problem.  One of them is the UK, at least as far as Tory policy is concerned.  

David Cameron, speaking at the Knesset today has reiterated his unfettered support of Israel and his intention to not adhere to any boycott or sanction against Israel. 

What is however, contradictory about Cameron's statements is that Cameron as representative for the UK, is also integral part of the peace process.  Saying that the UK will not adhere to a boycott or any punishment for not attempting earnestly to achieve peace, sends a direct signal to the UN and the rest of the world, that the plight of the West Bank dwellers is none of their concern.  

In fact, Cameron has said it would suggest that UK businesses not invest in the West Bank.  

But the issue at the heart of the peace process is that of the settlements in the West Bank and the seemingly unstoppable advance of the Israeli tanks and construction crews.   Although Cameron constantly harps on the soundness of the compromise that would in his mind achieve peace, he is the first to undermine that possibility by signaling his unwillingness to clamp down on the punishmet as dictated by international or European consensus for pursuing settlement.  

Cameron seems to be quite deaf to the fact that as each year passes, and nothing is done to achieve peace, the result will be more suffering, danger and radicalization of people in the ghetto areas of Gaza and the West Bank. By harping also on the dangers of doing business in the West Bank, and therefore the 'advice' not to do business there, Cameron telegraphs a thinly veiled attempt at placing the burden of the peace process on the Palestinian community. The disincentivization of the commercial activities in the West Bank is even more subtle and ill intentioned that the refusal to adhere to a boycott. 

As Kerry sits in talks with both parties in the latest rounds of peace talks, Cameron's intereference is felt and heard.  The usual referral to the UK's commitment to the state of Israel and the remembrance of the Shoa, should not interfere or condition the peace process unduly.  

Interestingly, both the Arab faction of the Knesset and the Ultra Orthodox party members left the hall and returned only after Netanyahu's speech.  For the Ultra Orthodox the choice is clear: they want Israel to be declared a Jewish state, which would disenfranchise all Arab Israeli, a choice moreover that Cameron fully supports, and the Arab faction is equally clear on the two state solution being conditional on stopping the settlements. 

Cameron was so harmless in his delivery that he even skirted the possibility of impressing the Knesset with both the possibility of this being the last chance to achieve peace and the grave consequences that would follow the failure of the current peace process.  That alone is a path that the UK should not pursue.  No matter what economic interests the UK has in Israel, they should not take precedence to the peace process or the common interest of the world community, which is to achieve stability and peace. 

And the only way to achieve peace, in the face of possible failures is the isolation of Israel and the withdrawal of lucrative contracts and aid money to force it to complete the peace process. 

What is however, unnecessary and even shortsighted, is Cameron's insistence that punishing Israel with boycotts or cutting aid, is akin to the delegimization of the state of Israel. That in short, is pandering for self interest.  It would have been much better if Cameron had chosen not to speak these words.  It must be particularly offensive to the Arab constituency and the West Bank inhabitants to hear that any punitive measures against Israel are a form of delegitimization.

But Cameron did not stop there.  He carried on at length about the "outrageous lectures by members of the UN on human rights."

But Cameron should take a few days to visit the Gaza strip, or hear the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank.  Maybe then, if he still wants to harp on deligitimization, he could so with the knowledge that he has at least taken the time to see the other side of the coin. 

Cameron's contentions that Israel is not recognized by 32 countries in the world and that there is a need for all countries to recognize Israel unconditionally, is a straightforward denial of the fact that such countries, in the majority, do not want to recognize Israel until Israel has committed to and agreed to a lasting, durable peace with the Palestinians. What a handful of radicalized countries such as Iran, do or say has little bearing on the worthiness of the UN"s assessment of Israel's violations.

The issue of Israel's security cannot ignore that part of rebel activity prompted by Israel's insinstence on the settlements in the West Bank.  The world will never know how much security gain there could be for Israel until peace is achieved. Saying that Israel must be protected from Hezbollah and therefore one should be lenient - at all costs - with the State in light of its fragility, should realize that such voice joins the chorus of those who ignore the rights of the Palestinians.


Source: The Guardian / The Jerusalem Post: 3.12.14


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