Do Israeli Settlements Prevent Peace? ‘US Ambassador Has it Backwards’
“The U.S. Ambassador has unfortunately taken the propaganda bait.”
By Atara Beck, United with Israel
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority, told the Security Council Tuesday that Israel’s settlement building in Judea and Samaria is preventing any chance for a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“U.S. disapproval of settlement expansion goes back decades,” she said. “This is nothing new for us. But the practice has reached a critical juncture, and it is now undermining even the very viability of a negotiated two-state solution.”
The envoy said she “was told how many Palestinian families fear eviction from their homes because it is nearly impossible to get building permits as settlements expand.”
“It seems that the U.S. ambassador has it backwards. So far, any large-scale eviction that I can remember was of Jews by Jews to make way for Arabs,” Dr. Martin Sherman, founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, told United with Israel in a telephone interview.
Sherman was referring to the eviction of thousands of Jewish families from Gush Katif, the Israeli communities in Gaza, in 2005.
“Anyone who’s driven through the countryside of Judea and Samaria knows that it’s largely uninhabited,” he said. “Therefore, the claim that Arabs are in danger of being evicted because of expansion of Jewish settlements rings hollow, especially when you realize that in Areas A and B, with a major Arab population, there are no Jewish settlements there to encroach on Arab land.
“Even if it were true – which it isn’t – that an enhanced Jewish presence is endangering Arab households, that would be the result of continued Arab rejection over decades of offers for Jewish withdrawal and conflict resolution.”
According to NGO Regavim – a public movement dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources throughout the country – Jewish settlements constitute roughly one percent of the area of land in Judea and Samaria and roughly two percent of Area C, Sherman said.
Furthermore, the NGO notes, Israeli settlements in Area C do not go beyond Israeli government-owned land. When they do, they have been evicted time and time again.
“So, if there are Arab dwellings that are threatened by Israeli settlements, it means those Arabs have encroached illegally on Israeli land and therefore they should be evicted,” Sherman explained.
“Of course, the European Union is promoting illegal Arab construction within Area C, counting on the likelihood that Israel would practice political constraint and do nothing about it,” he added.
Joshua Hasten, International Spokesperson for the Gush Etzion Regional Council, told United with Israel:
“Legal Jewish building throughout Judea and Samaria is carried out with government approval and takes place within our communities without infringing on Arab towns and villages. For decades, the Palestinian Authority – along with radical Israeli organizations, funded by Europe – have perpetuated the myth that so-called ‘settlements’ are obstacles to peace. In fact, the opposite is true.
“The reality is that a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria offers PA Arabs economic opportunities which don’t exist under the corrupt PA leadership,” Hasten said.
“In terms of building permits, there are thousands of dunam of uninhabited areas in Area A under full PA control, which can be utilized for expansion. However, the goal here by the PA is to take over strategic swaths of Area C, under full Israeli control, in order to essentially – and illegally – try to establish a PA state there. The U.S. Ambassador has unfortunately taken the propaganda bait.”
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