The Bennett government has refused to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinian Affairs on the grounds that it would lead to the downfall of the government, which America would not tolerate. There has been talk of the need to first pass the Israeli government’s budget before moving on to the issue of the consulate, which could anger some members of the government and threaten its stability and survival. The U.S. is still committed to upholding Israel’s noteworthy agreement to reopen the consulate in Jerusalem. However, in the event that the budget is passed by the Knesset and the consulate reopens, analysts believe this may affect Israeli-American relations and create tension between the two countries. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine any tension between Israel and the U.S., since it is even more likely that Israel will get something in return, such as a diplomatic quid pro quo to remedy any tensions the reopening might cause. Here, it is important to remember that President Joe Biden made it clear, specifically to Naftali Bennett, that he expected Israel to show restraint on the settlement issue, and Bennett responded that Israel would build settlement homes only according to needs arising from “natural growth.” However, the settlement council will pass a resolution next week approving the construction of 4,400 new homes: 3,100 (it was 2,200 in August) in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and 1,300 in Palestinian villages and specifically Area C. It will be the first time that Israel has agreed to build new settlements since President Biden took office.
So, while everyone is awaiting the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, there is talk about Israel’s approval of more than 3,000 new settlement homes, in addition to building about 1,000 homes for Palestinians in Area C. To evaluate the debate over Israel’s intentions and whether Israel is trying to present these decisions as confidence-building measures and procedures, we must review the following facts:
• Israel plans to approve nearly 1,000 Palestinian housing units in areas classified as Area C in the occupied West Bank, i.e., 60% of them are under full Israeli control, contrary to the signed agreements that were supposed to transfer Areas A, B and C to the full control of the Palestinian National Authority by 1999;
• Israel has a tit-for-tat policy that responds to legitimate building and investing by Palestinians in Area C by building settlements that have been internationally recognized as illegal. We cannot consider the Palestinian right to Area C the equivalent of the crimes committed by Israel, with its demolition, land seizure and settlement building.
• In May 2018, Israel issued new Military Order No. 1797 authorizing the destruction of any Palestinian building in Area C within 96 hours of construction. I wonder if this military order has been reversed.
With regard to the settlements, U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 clearly states that settlements impede the possibility of a two-state solution. Since the beginning of the peace process, it is no secret that the number of settlers has tripled, reaching more than 720,000 in more than 432 settlements and outposts in the Palestinian West Bank.
When talking about peace and confidence-building measures in the Middle East, the reality on the ground shows an ongoing settler-colonial project, as forced transfers, evictions, displacement, frequent raids, attacks and targeted killings continue, all of which amount to crimes against humanity. The Israeli occupying authorities conduct all this activity on a regular basis against the Palestinian people while Israel continues to enjoy impunity.
The new Israeli government is spinning the facts in the soft language of serious coercive diplomacy. Even when it comes to correcting Donald Trump’s mistake and reopening the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Palestinians are still being pressured.
And here the question remains: Will Israel reap silence for the crimes it has committed with respect to the settlements and home construction in return for reopening the consulate? Or will the Israeli occupying power receive further financial, military or political incentives which we don’t know about?