The So-Called “Concessions” of the Settlement Freeze
By Tali Shapiro at Dec 23, 2009
Remember the dramatics of the 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza? The emotional open letters, the stories of martyrdom, the binary of “good” and “evil”. This propaganda is standard procedure, in Israel, when it comes to the illegal settlements. It wasn’t enough that Obama caved from “We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity” to a 10-month construction freeze, not including “East Jerusalem”, or construction that is “already underway”, or schools, kindergartens, synagogues, or “public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements“. The Israeli government must make sure that this is seen as a “a far-reaching step toward peace”.
Selling the Settlement Freeze to the Cabinet
One must wonder about the waste that’s done with their taxes, in Cabinet debates, about things that are simply illegal. Defense Minister, Ehud Barak - the man who’s responsible for the biggest settlement growths- became a dove for a slight second and said:
Its aim is to open a window for renewing negotiations with the Palestinians...
But went right back to his fuzzy self and reasserted his typical spartan vision:
The understandings with the United States are of the utmost importance with regard to negotiations, and guarantees of security and its military supremacy.
Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, responsible for many of the quoted pearls in the opening of this article made sure the cabinet understands the true purpose behind this great sacrifice:
In the international circumstances that have been created, this step will advance Israel's broad international interests. This is not a simple step, nor an easy one; but it has many more advantages than disadvantages... It will enable us to show the world this simple truth: The Government of Israel wants to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter into negotiations and is very serious in its intention to advance peace.
All this from one article and the word illegal isn’t mentioned once. It does, however, conclude with the following information:
Today, more than a quarter of million Israelis live in West Bank settlements. The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories.
I can see the dove spread her wings, already.
So-Called Cabinet “Rebellion”
All this and we still have some miffed ministers, who refuse to accept this peace-faking step towards peace in the Middle East. It’s so important for us to know what every low-level member of every party thinks, that each one gets their own 400-word article. Likud member, Gilad Erdan, for example, thinks freezing the illegal settlement construction is:
...extreme and could pose a severe violation of human rights.
Other such concerned citizens are Diaspora Minister, Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who asked the prime minister to provide compensation to those settlers who will “suffer harm as a result of the settlement freeze.” And Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov of Yisrael Beitenu, declared his office will continue to develop tourist sites in the West Bank:
...the Tourism Ministry was focused on three central sites: The Herodium in Gush Etzion, Qasr al Yahud in Ma'ale Adumim and the stalactite cave in Ariel.
Really, this should come as no surprise, as it fits in with the guidelines I’ve illustrated above. More “activists”- as the Likud members and law makers that gathered one fine Saturday, are referred to by Haaretz Correspondent, Chaim Levinson- are unhappy with the decision and- referring to Obama as “Hussein Obama”- made public statements that would make Anne Coulter proud:
"The Obama administration is an enemy of the Jews and the worst regime there ever was for the State of Israel," said Yossi Naim, the head of the Beit Aryeh regional council, at the Ra'ana meeting. "I announce to Obama: You won't be able to stop us."
Concessions to Settlers Some serious grassroots Zionism has erupted against this pitiful excuse for a settlement freeze, and the media is kind enough to further the settler’s agenda. In a stinging irony, I’m exposed to articles such as the one titled “Barak softens terms of building freeze in bid to placate settlers”, which tell the details of how settler leaders met in jerusalem and “some participants expressed concerns that the struggle might turn violent, they decided to launch an explanatory campaign stressing that activists must not raise their hands against the building inspectors.” In the next sentence, I’m told that “They also decided to hold a mass demonstration in Jerusalem next Wednesday.” I can just imagine them locking arms and singing Peace Shall Overcome. Especially, when I read on and discover these Gandhi disciples attempted on marching to Nablus, a Palestinian town. The article tells me the story of the settlement’s security officer, who was beaten by the police, his leg broken. And of the 6 arrested settlers, as a result of 5 different protests. Where was this power-to-the-people-press last week, and the week before, when the police was rioting in Sheikh Jarrah, injuring the demonstrators and each other, and arresting over 20 demonstrators per protest? Not only does the press never make the connection between the brutality of the suppression in Sheikh Jarrah with Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, as it does with the case of the settlers, but we were also never wooed by Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu:
This morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with settler leaders. He plans to offer various measures to ease the settlers' lives; for instance, more funding for schools and other services. Netanyahu will stress that he intends to enforce the freeze fully, but he will promise that construction will resume when the freeze expires in 10 months... Wednesday, Netanyahu and Barak agreed to set up an exceptions committee that settlers can apply to for permits to build in special cases such as sewage or electricity problems. Also Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, published a list of 84 apartment buildings and public structures on which construction would be allowed to continue despite the freeze. The residential buildings include 492 apartments. These buildings were approved because they meet the conditions set for exemption from the freeze - namely, they have legal permits and their foundations have already been completed. They join some 2,500 housing units that were previously exempted for similar reasons.
Nope, I definitely was never met by the Prime Minister, or Defense Minister, or “the coordinator of government activities in the [OCCUPIED] territories”, and none of them ever offered to stop the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. More articles detailing police brutality and the settler’s struggle against draconian government policy, this past week:
- Haaretz exclusive: Police-settler clashes caught on film
- Settlers reject Netanyahu plea to respect settlement freeze
- Youth protesting settlement freeze block Jerusalem entrance
- Settlers: We'll prevent inspectors from enforcing construction freeze
- Barak: Israeli settlement freeze is unprecedented peace move
- Lieberman: Fight against settlement freeze is 'legitimate'
- More than 10,000 demonstrators rally against settlement freeze
- State: Implementation of settlement freeze couldn't have waited
- High Court blasts government for not compensating settlers for freeze
- Four arrested as rightists continue to fight settlement freeze
- Leaked memo details tactics to enforce settlement freeze
Thawing the Unfrozen Settlements
The frost hasn’t even started biting, and less than a week after the decidedly-partial settlement freeze has been announced, we can observe the king of settlements at work:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday ordered the IDF to issue a temporary freeze order, but at the same time allowed the construction of 28 new public buildings in settlements.
Those who follow these issues closely and aren’t afflicted by the short-term-memory-loss epidemic that’s so rampant, these days, may find the announcement, made the very next day by the same Ha’aretz, puzzling:
Defense Ministry officials denied that an announcement on Wednesday that 84 new buildings would be built in West Bank settlements was a bid by to appease settlers, who were angered by a 10-month freeze on new building in the territories… The buildings will contain 492 housing units. Even though their foundations have not yet been laid, they will still be added to the 2,500 housing units upon which construction work has already begun and that will not be included in the moratorium.
I’m puzzled that what bothers Ha’aretz is whether the move to build, despite the freeze, was a bid to appease illegal-settlement leaders, or not. And not how the number of buildings shot up from 28 to 84, within less than 24 hours. And just so there’s no mistake about what happens after the pseudo-freeze is/n't implemented, there’s the court jester of settlements:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel's announced 10-month partial moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements was only a tactical move and a temporary one. "It is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again full force; anyone who understands anything knows this...”
But wait! There’s more:
"When we finish the chapter of the settlement freeze in the West Bank, we will focus the national effort on the illegal construction in the Negev and the Galilee," Lieberman said, referring to construction by Bedouin and Israeli Arabs.
And this is where the Zionist chronic displacement disorder kicks in:
Not all the building is improvised, but rather the result of intentional planning, taking into account geographical and financial considerations. There is clearly an attempt to build enclaves that could be separated from Israel, based on similar international precedents… On one hand they are formulating the thesis of a country for all its citizens, but on the other hand, building in the Negev and the Hebron Hills near Jerusalem is all illegally constructed and part of a political goal...
What the Settlement Freeze Really Means
Day in and day out we have headlines of the freeze, as if its implementation makes any real difference. All this chaos, deliberately created by the government, changes nothing on the ground, except for one small detail: No matter what the Israeli government decides to do, it always has time to make life that much harder for the average Palestinian:
Most settlement homes are built by Palestinian workers who need Civil Administration authorization to enter Jewish communities in the West Bank. The Civil Administration intends to instruct local councils and security officers to only grant authorization to those workers employed at sites where construction has been allowed despite the freeze.
So after all this, the Israeli government can rest assured; If the freeze achieves nothing at all, at least a few more Palestinians will loose their jobs.