Current General Studies Magazine (February 2017)
General Studies - II "International Relations Based
Article" (Israel’s Continuing Land Grab)
The passage of legislation by Israel that would legalise
nearly 4,000 Jewish settler homes on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank
flies in the face of international law and norms. That the vote comes weeks
after the UN Security Council demanded that Israel stop all settlement activity
in the Occupied Territories, and an international conference attended by more
than 70 countries urged both sides in the conflict to resume talks, shows
Israel’s disregard for international opinion and institutions. The legislation
allows the Israeli government to expropriate private Palestinian land if the
land-owners are unknown. If known, they will be compensated in cash or kind.
However, the legislation, which for the first time since the annexation of East
Jerusalem seeks to extend Israeli law to the West Bank, can be overturned by the
judiciary. Israel’s Attorney-General has said he wouldn’t defend the bill in the
high court as it is “unconstitutional and violates international law”. However,
this is unlikely to stop the ideology-driven settler movement and the government
of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from taking more Palestinian land. Since
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem five decades ago, about 140
settlements have been built in Palestinian territories that house more than
600,000 Jews. Despite frequent international criticism, successive governments
have thrown their weight behind the settlement lobby. Mr. Netanyahu, who is
dependent on the right-wing coalition parties for his government’s survival, has
played along. Last month, his government approved plans for 2,500 new settler
homes in the West Bank.
Israel still says it is committed to the two-state solution.
But how will the two-state solution stay relevant if it continues to grab
Palestinian land where an independent Palestinian state is supposed to come up?
The Netanyahu government has shown no particular interest in resuming
negotiations, while its right-wing allies are boasting of expanding Israeli
sovereignty to “Judea and Samaria”, the biblical names for the West Bank. And
now Israeli authorities feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as U.S.
President. He has promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,
a disputed city, slammed the Obama administration for not using its veto powers
in the UNSC over the settlement resolution in December 2016, and even praised
the controversial security wall Israel has built through Palestinian lands. Mr.
Netanyahu, facing pressure from coalition partners, may be hoping to continue
the status quo of occupation, provided Mr. Trump offers the protection to Tel
Aviv that he promised during the campaign. That would make peace yet more
distant in West Asia.