Israel’s actions in the West Bank are leading towards a one-state reality and continued occupation of the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a speech today.
Speaking at a press conference in which he was expected to slam Israeli policies of settler expansion and occupation of Palestinians, Kerry said: “No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality that settlements post to theta peace.”
“It’s not just a question of the overall amount of land available in the West Bank, it’s whether the land can be connected or is broken up into small parcels like Swiss cheese that could never constitute a real state,” Kerry said.
The more outposts that are built, the more the settlements expand, the less possible it is to create a contiguous state, so in the end a settlement is not just the land that it’s on, it’s also what the location does to the movement of people, what it does to the ability of a road to connect one community to another, what it does to the sense of statehood that is chipped away with each new construction.
Kerry added: “The problem obviously goes beyond settlements. Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take the West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there. Today, the 60 per cent of the West Bank known as Area C, much of which was supposed to be transferred to Palestinian control long ago under the Oslo Accords, much of it is off limits to Palestinian development. Most today has essentially been taken for exclusive use by Israel simply by unilaterally designated it as ‘state land’.”
In fact almost no private Palestinian building is approved in Area C at all, only one permit was issued by Israel in all of 2014 and 2015 while approvals for hundreds of settlement units were advanced during that same period.
He went on: “Moreover Palestinian structures in Area C that do not have a permit from the Israeli military are potentially subject to demolition and they are currently being demolished at an historically high rate over 1,300 Palestinians including over 300 children have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone. More than any previous year.”
“So the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel and their stated purpose is clear, they believe in one state, Greater Israel, in fact one prominent minister who heads a pro-settler party declared just after the US elections and I quote ‘the era of the two-state solution is over’, end quote, and many other coalition ministers publically reject a Palestinian state.”
His criticism of Israeli settlement construction was the most vocal. Speaking about the settlements he said the “current Israeli collation is the most right wing in Israeli history. Policies if this government is more committed to settlement than any in Israeli history, which is leading to one-state reality.”
Kerry rejected the claim that settlements improve Israeli security and believes that settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israeli security and is in reality an added burden to the country adding that “statehood is chipped away with each new construction” and warned “if they remain where they are there cannot be a viable Palestinian state”.
In his much anticipated speech before leaving his post as US Secretary of State, Kerry laid out the administration’s vision for resolving Middle East conflict and the decision to support the UN Resolution 2334 last week, which declared Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal having “no legal validity” and a “flagrant violation under international law”.
Responding to the accusations that the US helped in drafting UN Resolution 2334, Kerry said that the “US did not draft or put it forward” but insisted that America supported the resolution because it was in everyone’s interest.
Kerry vigorously defended the UN resolution and rejected criticism “that this vote abandons Israel”.
“If we had vetoed this resolution just the other day, the United States would have been giving license to further, unfettered settlement construction that we fundamentally oppose,” Kerry said. “It is not this resolution that is isolating Israel. It is the permanent policy of settlement construction that risks making peace impossible.”
He stressed that the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, emphasising that it was the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Commenting on the dire situation he said that the situation in Gaza tragic and made worse by the closure of crossing. He believes that Israeli’s are unaware of the extent of Israel’s occupation which is undermining the two-state solution.
On Friday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding Israel to halt settlement building and expansion in the Palestinian territories. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela, was passed by a 14-0 vote after the United States abstained.
As a response to the resolution, Israel and it’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to conduct ‘revenge demolitions‘ of Palestinian homes; approved building some 5,600 housing units in East Jerusalem for illegal settlements; cut funding to five UN institutions worth $7.8 million; threatened to directly target UNRWA with Trump’s help; and recalled it’s ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand.