Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has announced bullishly that a Palestinian state will not exist before the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state. In yet another shift of the negotiation goalposts he added that the Palestinians must also agree to end the conflict with Israel.
At the same time, Netanyahu’s coalition government has formally rejected the UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state. The decision, it claims, will not form the basis for any future negotiations and will not compromise Israel’s rights on land it regards as its own territory.
Israel, insisted Netanyahu, will never accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank which will turn the area into a “terrorist base” from which rockets could be fired at Israeli cities. He stressed that his government is determined to intensify settlement projects in Jerusalem and what he called “the locations plotted on the map of Israeli’s strategic interests”.
According to Likud minister Gilad Erdan, time is not in the Palestinians’ favour and a refusal to return to negotiations “and make concessions” means creating “unchangeable” facts on the ground. “There is no reason to prevent the natural growth of settlements,” he said, pointing out that the “E-1” area had been earmarked for settlement by the former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Housing Minister Ariel Attias added, “In the coming weeks, the government will ask for tenders to be submitted for the construction of 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and more than 1,000 units in settlement blocs in the West Bank.” Construction is expected to take one or two years.
Trying to justify his government’s decision to build thousands of new housing units in the illegal settlements, Netanyahu cited the “precedent” of Rabin’s 1975 decision to respond to the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism by intensifying settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. He described the Palestinian Authority’s move at the UN as a “flagrant violation” of agreements signed with Israel.
Commentators have pointed out that his own government’s policies mean that agreements are violated daily by Israel, but this has been overlooked by Netanyahu and pro-Israel supporters who believe that the occupied West Bank is only “disputed” territory over which Jews have rights.
The Israeli government is resolved to continue with its settlement programme, saying that Jews have “natural, historical and legal rights” on the land. The UN decision, it claims, “does not change that status”, nor does it grant any other party such rights or diminish Israel’s in any way.
Eyal Gross, a Professor of International Law, warned the government against building new housing units in the occupied territories, explaining that this could lead to Israel being put on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He added that Article VIII of the court’s Constitution considers that the moving of the population of an occupying power to the land of an occupied state is a war crime.
The Israeli Ministry of Finance, meanwhile, announced that it has suspended the payment of $120 million dollars of tax revenues collected every month on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. A statement said that the money will be used to pay outstanding amounts “owed” to the Israel Electricity Company.