Israel : Green light to new settlers homes in West Bank
The Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak allowed today the construction of 455 new settler homes in West Bank: 161 in the Gush Etzion block, near Bethléem, 84 in Modiin Ilit, west of Ramallah, 76 in Givat, near Jerusalem, 25 in the settlements near to Kedar, 20 in the settlement of Maskiot, in the Jordan Valley.
Washington and Paris condemned this decision that goes against Israel’s commitment to the peace process.
Two weeks ago however Netanyahu had announced the temporary – only till the beginning of 2010 – freezing of all the call of proposals concerning public settlements. Although it was temporary, only dedicated to public proposals and did not concern East-Jerusalem, this declaration stirred up trouble in his coalition. The Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon criticized Netanyahu’s choice to obey the United States and tried to rally the extreme-right wing of Likud around him. In other words, the Prime Minister had to choose between the international support and the unity of his governmental coalition.
Netanyahu seems to have decided to give the priority to his coalition, even if he explains his decision by the necessity to first gain the support of his coalition before to proceed to a freezing of ninth month of the construction in the settlements.
But this strategy is dangerous. He tries to satisfy everybody, but risks to leave everybody unsatisfied. At the one hand, it does not persuade the settlers whose leader Pinhas Wallerstein qualified Netanyahu’s decision as a “huge smokescreen”. On the other hand the Palestinians warned that such an acceleration of the construction will cancel the effect of a future freezing. Mahmoud Abbas previously declared that the freezing of all the settlements is a precondition of the Palestinian participation to future negotiations.
Some members of the Israeli government then tried to justify their position by saying that the Arab governments were not doing any efforts to “normalize” their relations with Israel. Amr Musa reacted and said that in no way the Arab governments would make a gift to Israel if the latter does not make a step to freeze construction in the settlements.
This time the Israeli government seems to have gone too far. The criticism is unanimous: from the Palestinian Authority, from the European Union, from France and from the United States. Let us just hope now a finally strong reaction from Washington. (NJO)