J Street is disturbed by reports that Israeli authorities have approved the construction of a new West Bank settlement to house hundreds of settlers evacuated earlier this year from the illegal outpost of Amona. This would be the first entirely new, officially-sanctioned West Bank settlement in over two decades.
The creation of this new settlement sends the message that the Israeli government has no interest in seriously pursuing the two-state solution and making the choices necessary for peace. It is a sharp rebuke to President Trump and Arab leaders who have stated their interest in pursuing a comprehensive regional approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If the Trump administration is serious about advancing a genuine diplomatic process toward a two-state solution, it must make absolutely clear that actions like this are unacceptable and seriously jeopardize Israel’s long-term future. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told an American Jewish audience earlier this week that, with regard to the peace process, “None of us, least of all the president, will be impressed by mere words. We expect to see action and we will hold one another accountable as we strengthen our existing partnerships and forge new ones.” Now is the time to make good on that position and ensure that Israel’s government is accountable for its actions.
In February, following the dismantling of the Amona outpost, J Street expressed our concern that the Israeli government would act to “compensate” the settler movement by allowing the construction of many new settlements. It’s clear that this new settlement is part of that “compensation.” Speaking at the Knesset on Tuesday, the Prime Minister stated that “Alongside our desire to reach an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, we will continue to protect the settlement enterprise and strengthen it.” He must know that this position is totally contradictory and untenable.
As the Trump administration and many Israeli leaders have made clear, Israel currently has a real opportunity to work with the Palestinians and Arab states to pursue a comprehensive peace agreement. But seizing that opportunity, after 50 years of occupation and political indecision, will require making real choices in favor of a two-state solution. Actions like this will only alienate potential allies, increase tensions in the West Bank and undermine Israeli security.