The message of Ehud Olmert’s op-ed this morning is simple: Despite promises not to take actions that would prejudice a final outcome, for years, Israel has gotten away with building and expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian land. But now the Obama administration has called them on this. Olmert liked things the way they were!
“The focus on settlement construction, while ignoring the previous understandings,” Olmert writes “unjustly skews the focus from a true political process and from dealing with the real strategic issues confronting the region.”
Olmert states the “previous understandings” (in bold), my responses follow:
- No new settlements would be constructed.
The official boundaries of existing settlements are huge, enabling Israel to construct new “neighborhoods” while claiming they don’t represent “new settlements.”
- No new land would be allocated or confiscated for settlement construction.
The amount of land that has already been allocated or confiscated for settlement construction is enormous, and Israel continues to use an array of bureaucratic and security measures to confiscate Palestinian land.
- Any construction in the settlements would be within current building lines.
The current building lines are enormous.
- There would be no provision of economic incentives promoting settlement growth.
A July 6, 2009 article in the Jerusalem Post entitled “Government still offering settlers incentives” stated that “First-time home buyers can receive a bigger mortgage if they move to settlements such as Itamar and Eilon Moreh than to the city of Ashkelon, according to the Construction and Housing Ministry Web site.”
- The unauthorized outposts built after March 2001 would be dismantled (a commitment that Israel, regrettably, has not yet fulfilled).
Yes, regrettably. As for the unauthorized outposts built before March 2001 (which, in terms of international law, means all the settlements east of the Green Line) normal life, and “natural growth” — which in 2007 accounted for 63 percent of settlement population growth — will continue. All of which is to say that, even if we grant that Olmert’s description of “previous understandings” is accurate, it is precisely these understandings that have enabled the settlements to continue expanding at an enormous rate.
When Olmert writes plaintively about “a proper balance” in U.S.-Israel discussions of settlements “to allow essential elements of stability and normality for Israelis living in settlements,” it’s important to understand that Israel shows no such considerations toward the impact of these settlements on the Palestinians, nor certainly toward Palestinians’ own need for “stability and normality”.
When he was mayor of Jerusalem, Olmert was “considered a driving force behind the intensified campaign to set up new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem,” overseeing a massive expansion (funded to a great extent by private American donors like Irving Moskowitz) of settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods. So Olmert is a particularly unsuitable messenger in this respect. Read more