Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Smoking Gun: Israel's reluctance to give up settlements

H/T The Hasbara Buster

Snipped from J'Post - Gershon Baskin.

WHEN BINYAMIN Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, a "conflict" of interpretation developed between the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry. At that time I saw a document produced by the legal department of the Foreign Ministry explaining that the new interpretation of the Prime Minister's Office was incorrect. It stated the following: According to the Prime Minister's office, the settlement areas in question are based on the statutory planning maps of the civil administration and not on the built-up areas. Those zoning maps provide the settlements with about 40% of the West Bank.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister's office stated that instead of "specified military locations" the real intention was "security zones" - meaning that the entire Jordan Valley is a security zone, all of the areas around settlements are security zones, the bypass roads to settlements are security zones, and so are all of the lands adjacent to the Green Line. In other words, 60% of the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands, and in the negotiations with the Palestinians Israel would retain well above 10% of the West Bank, and if possible more.

This, according to the Palestinians and even the US, was a major breach of the agreement and it was one of the significant reasons for the failure of the entire process. At that point, the process ceased to being about ending the occupation and instead about how emasculated the Palestinian entity would be.

Ehud Barak understood that he would have a very tough negotiation on the territorial question. When I asked his chief of staff Gilead Sher why the prime minister was building even more settlements than Netanyahu, his answer was "the story of the goat" - meaning it would appear that Israel was making larger concessions than it really was.

Ariel Sharon always believed, as did other Likud leaders,that the settlements would be the best way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. It turns out that they were probably right. Many today even question the very viability of a Palestinian state because of the settlements.

But Baskin is a realist of sorts:

There is global consensus on this issue [creation of a Palestinian State on most of the West Bank] and continued objection will only increase our isolation. Boycott, sanctions and divestment are right around the corner. The international community knows that it worked in South Africa and that it will work against Israel as well. It is time to wake up and face reality. We can, with the help and understanding of the world, led by President Barack Obama, develop a peace process that is based on real security and real peace, but we must recognize that there are no short cuts. We must signal that the occupation will come to an end and then begin to act accordingly.

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