J Street is deeply disturbed by the Israeli Security Cabinet’s announcement that it has approved the construction of a new settlement in the West Bank – which would be the first completely new settlement to be officially built in over twenty years.
This new settlement is far outside the bounds of territory that anyone believes will remain part of Israel under a two-state agreement. It is intended to provide a home for the settlers who in February were finally removed from the illegal outpost of Amona – transparent political “compensation” for the settlement movement. The new announcement makes clear just how much control over Israeli policy and decision-making the settlement movement and its leaders currently have.
This new settlement drives home the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his coalition have been sending for months: The current Israeli government has no interest in achieving a two-state solution or ending the occupation. While just this week the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League reaffirmed their commitment to the two-state solution, this decision is a clear rebuke to those pursuing peace. It would exacerbate Israeli-Palestinian tensions and move Israelis further away from achieving lasting peace and secure, internationally-recognized borders.
This announcement represents a major foreign policy test for the Trump administration, which over the past few weeks has reportedly engaged in negotiations with Israel about the future of settlement construction. While failing to clearly support the two-state solution, the administration has repeatedly claimed that it is serious about pursuing comprehensive regional peace between Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab states. If that’s true, then the administration must clearly and unequivocally condemn this new settlement as a major obstacle to peace, rather than pin their hopes on vague assurances of future restraint.
Just last week former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo – an appointee of Prime Minister Netanyahu – said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ongoing occupation is Israel’s “[O]ne existential threat. It is a ticking time bomb.” Brazen settlement expansion ignores the warnings of Israel’s leading security minds, doubling down on the failed policies that are jeopardizing the country’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Israel needs leaders willing to put the interests of the state over the interests of a fringe minority, and allies willing to warn it about the dangerous road it is heading down.