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Berliner Morgenpost, Germany

America: All Alone in the Security Council

By Michael Borgstede

Translated By Ron Argentati

20 December 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Germany - Berliner Morgenpost - Original Article (German)

Israel's settlement policy is putting pressure on Washington. The United States' scuttling of a UN resolution condemning Israel for its settlement expansion policy wasn't done out of conviction. On the West Bank, Hamas terrorists gained immediate popularity.

At first, the 15-member Security Council had hoped to reach a consensus on Israeli settlement expansion, but in the end nothing came of it.

The United States refused to officially condemn Israel's newly announced plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and even refused to allow the body to vote on the resolution. That was done more as a gesture of solidarity with its Middle Eastern ally than it was done out of conviction.

Shortly before the U.S. shot down the Security Council’s resolution, the State Department had made an unusually frank announcement regarding Israel's announced expansion. “We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding, “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace.” A joint statement by the four European Union Security Council members wasn't much different as given by British ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, who called Israel's expansion plans worrisome and urged that they be rescinded: “Israel’s announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements send a negative message and are undermining faith in its willingness to negotiate,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Indian ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said, “NAM stresses Israel’s settlement activities constitute grave breeches of international humanitarian law and violate numerous U.N. resolutions, including resolutions of the Security Council."

The United States is reported to have reacted angrily to the European recalcitrance: Not because Washington believes any differently but because it was left standing alone by the 15 European members as Israel's only ally in the Middle East. Washington has never felt so alone and isolated in the Security Council.

The fact is that plans to build new settlements in disputed areas of Jerusalem are announced almost daily. The settlement authority just approved construction of 1,610 new residential units in a Jewish quarter located in Arab East Jerusalem. Givat HaMatos would be the first new settlement in the area since 1997. Officially, the area — populated by a few Jews and Arabs living in shipping containers — is located inside the city limits of Jerusalem. But since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has extended the city limits further into the West Bank. The construction of Givat HaMatos would make a connection between the West Bank and the Arab quarters of Jerusalem in the southern part of the city virtually impossible.

The latest announced construction of up to 4,000 residential units in the nearly 50-square-kilometer E1 area between Jerusalem and the Maale Adumim settlement would equally make any territorial contiguity for a future Palestinian state impossible.

In addition, another 1,500 residential units are planned to be built in the ultra-orthodox Ramat Shlomo area in northern Jerusalem in what had heretofore been part of the West Bank. They're still considering 1,000 new units in Gilo as well as 3,000 apartments in other settlements already approved by Israel.

Expansion: Israel's Response to Abbas' Unilateral Appeal to the UN?

Settlement expansion, by Israel's own admission, is their answer to the unilateral Palestinian appeal to the UN General Assembly for recognition. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got impressive backing from the UN to upgrade Palestine's observer status.

Palestine is not yet a full-fledged member state. City council deputy Jair Gabai said in a radio broadcast that the city council had knowingly approved 200 more units in Givat HaMatos than originally planned, explaining that this was done as a direct response to the international pressure Israel had come under.

While this has become part of the Israeli election campaign and was again confirmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent interview, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, dismissed the wave of building permits as “a bureaucratic process that can take years.” He then urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions, saying the real problem was not settlement expansion but rather the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, its insistence on the right of return for Palestinian exiles and its continuing violence and political agitation.

Hamas Gaining Popularity in the West Bank

In fact, a Palestinian survey in the wake of the latest military action in Gaza resulted in 88 percent of Palestinians responding they thought “armed combat” provided their best chance of gaining independence. In the West Bank, Hamas gained strong popularity.

Taken in the context of previous surveys, however, the results appear to be due less to any Palestinian preference for violence than to a certain feeling of resignation: In May 2011, 59 percent of West Bank Palestinians favored immediate negotiations with Israel. One year later, that had sunk to 52 percent; it now lies at a mere 43 percent.

Frustration with settlement expansion and the recognition that the peaceful tactics employed by the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah neither gets any sympathy in Israel nor does it encourage Israel to negotiate has probably added to the frustration.

In Israel there is no apparent change. Even among voters in the liberal labor party, two-thirds reject the idea of a divided Jerusalem.



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