Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made headlines by bravely saying what most people already know to be true, and what Olmert himself has spent almost his entire political career denying — that Israel must withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians.
Today, Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg — who authored an excellent history of Israel’s settlement enterprise — has an op-ed in the Washington Post describing the intractable situation Israel has created for itself through years of settlement building:
Nearly a thousand housing units are being built in Maale Adumim, according to Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project. At Givat Zeev, another of the settlements ringing Jerusalem, a 750-unit project was approved this year. The government has asked for bids on building nearly 350 homes in Beitar Illit, also near Jerusalem. Meanwhile, hundreds of homes have been added at settlements deep in the West Bank, with the government’s acquiescence if not approval.
All this fits a historical pattern: Diplomatic initiatives accelerate settlement building in occupied territory. When the peace effort fades away, the red-roofed houses remain as a monument.[...]
Since Annapolis, hard-line settlers have continued building, hoping to block any pullback. The government, meanwhile, is building in the so-called settlement blocs — settlements that it insists Israel must keep under any agreement. As in the past, it is writing its negotiating position in concrete on the hills.
Meanwhile, last week the New York Times reported on the increasing violence by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories:
There have been bouts of settler violence for years, notably during the transfer of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Now, though, the militants seem to have spawned a broader, more defined strategy of resistance designed to intimidate the state.
This aggressive doctrine, according to Akiva HaCohen, 24, who is considered to be one of its architects, calls on settlers and their supporters to respond “whenever, wherever and however” they wish to any attempt by the Israeli Army or the police to lay a finger on property in illegally built outposts scheduled by the government for removal.[...]
Besides exacting a price for army and police actions, the policy also encourages settlers to avenge Palestinian acts of violence by taking the law into their own hands — an approach that has the potential to set the tinderbox of the West Bank ablaze.
Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting spontaneously, throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank, a territory that Israel has occupied since 1967.
For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, settler terrorism is simply a fact of life. Lawless rampages like the one in Asira al-Qibliya a few weeks ago — which Olmert called a “pogrom” — make news, but the less spectacular daily acts of harassment, intimidation, vandalism and violence rarely do. Read more