Legalization of New Settlements is No ‘Holiday Gift’ to Israel

April 29, 2012

Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s characterization in a speech on Yom Ha’atzmaut of the government’s legalization of three West Bank outposts as a “holiday gift” should deeply concern all those committed to ensuring Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish homeland.

This latest escalation in the entrenchment of the settlement enterprise dangerously undercuts the viability of both the two-state solution and the Palestinian partners who offer the best chance of bringing it about.

We welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview with CNN this week, during which he asserted that he does not want “to govern the Palestinians,” that he is committed to the establishment of an “independent” and “contiguous” Palestinian state, and that he is a leader who could “deliver a peace agreement.” His government’s recent actions, however, convey the opposite message.

The decision on Tuesday to legalize Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim marks the Government of Israel’s first legal recognition of new settlements since 1990. Also this month, the Israeli government authorized the construction of 872 more housing units in East Jerusalem and is asking the Israeli Supreme Court to reevaluate its decision to evacuate the outpost of Ulpana.

In the coming week, Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to present an Israeli proposal for resuming talks with the Palestinians, in reply to a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered two weeks ago. His response presents a real opportunity for Prime Minister Netanyahu to commit his government to actions that match his stated commitment to a two-state solution, which remains the only conceivable way to sustain both the democratic and the Jewish principles upon which the state was founded. Celebrating next Yom Ha’Atzmaut with Israel at peace with all its neighbors would be a real “holiday gift.”