Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Netanyahu's Defiance and U.S. Timidity Makes
Mockery of Peace Drive
By James Zogby
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 22, 2010
Israel's announcement, last week, of a radical expansion of Har
Homa (an already massive settlement community between Jerusalem and
Bethlehem) makes a mockery of the so-called "peace process".
episode has further served to reinforce the belief that Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no interest in reaching a just peace with
the Palestinians. This leopard has not changed his spots. Netanyahu
remains a wily (and not always honest) manipulator, who at his core is a
hard-line ideologue. At the same time, the Har Homa announcement serves as
an uncomfortable reminder of U.S. impotence and the role this weakness has
historically played in enabling Israel's bad behavior.
all too well a decade and a half ago when Jabal Abul Ghnaim was a lovely
green hill on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem. It was Arab land,
seized by Israel in 1967 and then annexed to what the Israelis refer to as
Greater Jerusalem. After becoming Prime Minister in 1996, as part of a
series of provocative acts designed to, in his words, "make a clean break"
ending the Oslo peace process, thereby showing the Americans and
Palestinians who was in charge, Netanyahu announced plans to construct "Har
Homa" on that Arab hill. The intent of this new settlement was to continue
the process of building an Israeli housing ring around Jerusalem that
would assert their control while denying Palestinians access to the Holy
The Clinton Administration opposed the Israeli plan,
expressing concern that this new settlement was "unhelpful" and
"counterproductive", etc. But words alone would not stop Netanyahu.
Bulldozers came and raped and scarred Jabal Abul Ghnaim, leaving it barren
with deep gouges where roads and houses would soon be built.
Palestinians went to the United Nation's Security Council only to see a
resolution of condemnation vetoed by the U.S. A General Assembly
resolution of condemnation passed by a 134 to 3 (with Micronesia joining
the U.S. and Israel in opposition). But such resolutions have no
authority. The Clinton Administration continued to object and Israelis
continued to plan and then to build.
That was then. Today, Har
Homa is home to 17,000 Israeli settlers. The recently announced Israeli
plan to build 1,000 new units will not only add thousands more settlers,
it will also greatly expand the settlement’s footprint by 50 percent,
extending it to the south and east.
On one level, what was
especially disturbing about this Israeli announcement was its timing and
apparent intent. Coming as it did while Netanyahu was in the U.S., having
just shared a podium with Vice-President Joseph Biden, it could only be
seen as yet another direct challenge both to the Obama Administration,
itself, as well as to U.S. efforts to restart peace talks. The
announcement was also aimed at the Palestinians telling them, in effect,
what they, the Israelis, thought of the Palestinian insistence on a
settlement freeze. In addition, the Israelis appear to be making it clear
to the Palestinians, that it was Israel who would define and control the
terms of any final peace arrangement - as they stake claim to more and
more of the occupied territories.
Given Netanyahu's history in
this regard, both in the '90's and his more recent behavior, the Obama
Administration's response has been more than disappointing. Echoing the
timid and failed rebukes of the past, President Obama termed the Israeli
plan "unhelpful" and left it Secretary of state Clinton to call it
More disturbing still were Clinton's words
upon ending a seven hour discussion with the Israeli Prime Minister in
which she reiterated the U.S.'s "unshakable" commitment to Israel's
security, and went on to describe the peace agreement the U.S. seeks as
one that "reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable
state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of
a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent
developments and meet Israeli security requirements". In that last
statement the Secretary ratified the infamous 2004 Bush letter of
assurances to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This has placed the U.S.
in the role of negotiating away fundamental Palestinian rights, and, on
the issue of settlements, of "giving away the store" to the Israelis.
The only conclusion that one can make from all of this is that those
settlements that Israel built over the last 43 years, in defiance of
international law - which have been described by successive American
administrations as "illegal", "an obstacle to peace", "unhelpful",
"counterproductive" and more recently as "illegitimate"- have now become
"subsequent developments" that will be accommodated by "agreed land
So Jabal Abul Ghnaim is no more, and will be no more,
despite international condemnation and U.S. "regrets". The once green Arab
hill has been replaced by "subsequent developments". Given of the
timidity of the U.S. response to the extension of Har Homa, in all
likelihood, that too will be built, and some day soon be a reality that
Palestinians will be told they must accept.