Europe’s underestimation, if not outright disinterest, toward the law passed by Israel’s Knesset on Monday night, which retroactively regularized nearly 4,000 homes in dozens of settlements, amplifies the Netanyahu government’s popularity and hardens the religious right’s influence.
Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, won this historic battle without too much trouble. He only needed to wait a few years for the departure of Barack Obama (during whose term colonization slowed but never stopped) and the entry of Donald Trump. The paralysis of the international community was laid bare last month with the bland final declaration of the Paris Peace Conference, at which Italian Foreign Minister Alfano said proudly that he had given his active contribution.
“It’s a revolution,” said Bennett. He’s right. In two weeks Israel has authorized the construction of nearly 6,000 homes in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, announced a new settlement and certified 4,000 homes in dozens of outposts.
And the Knesset vote paves the way for the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank. Not all of the West Bank: It would apply to the settlements but not the Palestinian towns, to avoid a binational state with Jews and Arabs together, explained Minister Ofer Akunis.
Apartheid is just around the corner, even other Israelis are warning. Journalists chronicled the outcry in December when Obama “backstabbed” Israel by refusing to veto the U.N. Security Council of Resolution 2334 which reaffirmed the status of the occupied territories to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and condemned the colonization. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership is weak, stuttering and unable to develop a political strategy worthy of the name.
“This Israeli law is unacceptable,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas. Just a little.
Not surprisingly, there’s bitterness on Hanan Ashrawi’s face. Ashrawi is a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and best remembered as the Palestinian spokeswoman during the first Intifada and the Madrid Conference.
Ashrawi shakes her head. “The hardest blow,” she says, “is the international attitude toward this.”
What could the Palestinians do?
We have to redefine our policies and rethink our relations with Israel. We know that this could cost us dearly, but we cannot keep our arms folded. And if the U.S. and Europe will not do their part to stop the escalation set in motion by the Netanyahu government, the way forward is that of international justice and an appeal to the International Criminal Court.
But the appeals seem like rituals that Palestinians send all the time to the international community. They don’t seem to produce much.
We can only continue to turn to the U.N. and invoke international justice. We must not tire of claiming our rights even if the world looks away. Our rights are no less important than those of the Israelis.
Some Palestinian officials have threatened to cancel the PLO’s recognition of Israel given 20 years ago. Is it a concrete possibility?
Everything is possible, this and other options. We have to put together a plan covering the different possibilities available to us, and these, in my opinion, should be discussed publicly.
Do these options include the end of security cooperation with Israel?
This is also a possibility, along with many others.
Has Donald Trump’s entrance to the White House been instrumental in the action of the Israeli government?
The election of Trump as president was the triggering event. Netanyahu did not speak on the issue before Jan. 20, even though Barack Obama was a very generous president with Israel, perhaps the most generous politically, financially and militarily. The Israeli government feels encouraged to pursue its policy because of Trump and the people that the new president has chosen for certain positions, beginning with the new U.S. ambassador to Tel Aviv [David Friedman, an open advocate of Israeli colonies]. We now have colonists in the Israeli government and, in fact, settlers in the U.S.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Trump administration has sent warnings to the Palestinians: that if they denounce Israel to the international prosecutor, they will lose U.S. financial support and the PLO will return to the list of terrorist organizations. It that true?
I’m not able to answer. What I know is that these threats are part of a position adopted by the U.S. Congress.
Are you disappointed by the E.U.?
Yes, very much so. It took 30 years just to get different labels for the “Made in Israel” goods of Jewish colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories in Europe. And in the meantime Israel remains a privileged partner of the E.U. in all respects, in spite of its policies toward us. Europe speaks but actually does very little to defend Palestinian rights.