Saturday, December 5

The Phony Freeze

These days many people in Israel are watching the news. They are beside themselves not necessarily with joy. The reason - P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu has made a "dramatic” announcement that he will freeze settlements in the occupied territories over a period of ten months as a gesture to get peace negotiations started with the Palestinians.

It is a tactical move to satisfy the US yet far short of a genuine freeze of settlement activity. It is not surprising that the Palestinian Authority, under Mahmoud Abbas, is not satisfied. The fact that extreme right wingers such as Ze’ev (Benny) Begin and Bogey Ayalon - support the "freeze" must raise suspicions that the freeze is not genuine nor is the will for reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. The establishment of settlements is such a strong part of Likud ideology that it would be unthinkable for the Likud coalition to change its policy towards settlement in the occupied territories.

The establishment of settlements is so deep in religious right wing Zionist ideology that any attempt to cease or freeze the establishment of settlements is total anathema to their religious ideology. This ideology is tantamount to ridding the West Bank of Palestinians as it is considered the land that God gave the Jews from biblical times.

It will be business as usual in the occupied territories with building operations, demolition of Palestinian homes considered illegal, continuing by stealth. It will be conceivable that permits for building operations will continue. This takes 10 months to fulfill anyway. The building of new homes in the occupied territories will be unaffected.

What is not covered by the "freeze" is the continuation of building operations in East Jerusalem which is considered to be Israeli and not open to negotiation. The Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and that the settlement freeze should include East Jerusalem as well. In any case, the settlement freeze will exist in name only and the building cessations will be unnoticed. It is highly unlikely that the so-called freeze will be observed in any case. Apart from cosmetic freezes of insignificant outposts, Israel's government has no intention of freezing settlements. If it did, the extreme right wing factions in the Likud would not support it.

Of course it will be argued that even if there was a genuine freeze of settlement building the Palestinians would not accept it as a prerequisite for getting negotiations started again. The Palestinians would only recognize freezing of building operations if it was genuine and included East Jerusalem. The entire world now accepts the fact that East Jerusalem will eventually be the capital of the Palestinian State when established. The right wing, religious Zionist settler movements, with its racist rabbinical mentors, believes in transferring the Palestinian population out of the occupied territories to neighbouring Arab States.

On the other hand, if settlement building in the occupied territories continues, it will be at the expense of the future Palestinian state. It will render the chance of its establishment impossible. This brings back the idea of a binational state and all that it entails. If settlement activity in the occupied territories carries on which is the will of the right wing in Israel, they must also be held accountable for the failure of the two-state solution which has the support of most of the free world.

The freezing of settlements in the occupied territories must be seen for what it really is - a sop to President Obama! Despite this, the right wing Zionist settler movement demonstrates against the phony freeze. At the head of the protests are the pseudo Kahanist racists such as Ittamar ben Gvir, whose visage seems to pop up at every right wing extremist demonstration .This kippa and tzitzit cladded protégé of the late Rabbi Meir Kahana is a religious extremist (I still have memories of Ben Gvir ripping off the badges from late P.M. Rabin's car two weeks before his assassination.)

The moratorium on settlements has other ramifications. Violence of right wing settlers against the Palestinians is a strong possibility.

The behaviour of the right wing settler zealots towards the indigenous Palestinian population has the potential to explode into further violence and hatred. It is no wonder that the Palestinian population in the occupied territories refuse to be accommodating towards Israel.

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