Israel’s Massive Settlement Announcement Dangerously Irresponsible

January 24, 2017

The Israeli government’s approval today of 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank is highly dangerous, reflecting its sense that it now has carte blanche from the new American President for unlimited settlement expansion.

Though the announcement by the government claims that most of the units will be built in so-called “settlement blocs” – this is an attempt to normalize actions that the world has made clear have no legal validity and crush hopes of reaching a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some of the units are in Beit El and Migron – nowhere near the Green Line – and reports in Ha’aretz indicate that other units are actually outside of what have traditionally been referred to as the “blocs.”

It is worth noting that 100 units are proposed to be built in Beit El, the ideologically right-wing settlement to which President Trump has donated money in the past and for which David Friedman, his nominee to be US ambassador to Israel, has raised millions of dollars as head of the American Friends of Beit El organization.

This announcement should put to rest any illusion that this Israeli government seeks a two-state solution with the Palestinians. It will deepen Israel’s diplomatic isolation, boost international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) efforts and deepen the despair among Palestinians that sadly fuels ongoing violence.

Israel’s government may be relieved to know that it will not feel the sting of a US rebuke today, but this announcement, combined with proposals for annexation of land beyond the Green Line and the possible relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, throw fuel on simmering fires and risk sparking further violence and terror in the near term. In the long term, they are placing Israel on a path to a one-state reality, in which Israel will have to choose between being democratic in character or Jewish in nature.

The failure of the American government to criticize this announcement would mark an unprecedented break with 50 years of bipartisan opposition to settlement expansion.

The new Trump administration should immediately condemn this decision and restate American opposition to Israeli settlements – as all Republican and Democratic administrations have without exception since 1967. We note that Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s pick for UN ambassador, said last week she is committed to the bipartisan consensus in the US against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Today, we need to hear this stated by administration spokespeople from the podium at the White House or State Department – and preferably both.

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