Palestinians Say Israeli Decision on Settlements Will Hurt Peace Talks

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Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

A construction site for a new neighborhood in the Jewish Settlement of Ariel in the West Bank, July 18, 2013.

The Israeli government maintains a list of “national priority areas” that designates towns and cities it considers “disadvantaged” and in need of help. So when the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved a new map of these national priorities and included an additional 20 communities – including nine Jewish settlements in the West Bank – it seemed to clarify exactly where his government stands on Israel’s presence in the territory Israel has occupied since 1967. In total, 91 West Bank settlements are now on the list of some 600 priority communities, a designation that entitles the towns to subsidies and financial breaks in housing, infrastructure, education, culture and security. The government included on the list three communities that until recently were illegal under Israeli law. Most countries in the world, including the United States, considers all settlements illegal. Israel rejects that position.

Palestinian officials reacted angrily, saying that the increase in the number of settlements to the list means that Israel will invest more in the very territories whose future the two sides are due to start discussing at peace talks scheduled for next week in Jerusalem or the West Bank city of Jericho. Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the move “places obstacles in front of the U.S. administration’s efforts to advance the peace process.”

But an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that the Netanyahu government is going into the talks entirely serious about reaching a deal with the Palestinians. The official also notes there is currently a slowdown on settlement building in order to improve the chances that the talks will succeed.

(MORE: Israel and Palestine Agree to Peace Talks, but With Reluctance)

Yair Sheleg, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, says that the decision to include the new settlements on the national priority areas list was not likely intended to scuttle peace talks before they had even begun and had more likely been in the bureaucratic pipeline for some time, reflecting a long-term trend of the government in providing support for settlements. But Sheleg says there may have been some political calculations involved: “I think there’s a chance that Netanyahu wants to show the rightists in his public and his government that he is not willing to concede the settlements. Although he agreed to the renewal of talks, at the same time he will strengthen the settlements, so that everyone in Israel and in the international community will know that he is determined to keep those settlements after an agreement. He wants to show his constituents that during the negotiations, not only will not freeze them but he will strengthen them.”

Moreover, says Sheleg, Netanyahu can say to the Palestinians: “’I gave you the prisoners, and this is my gesture to you. To my voters I have to show I’m still committed to the settlements.’” Netanyahu agreed earlier this month to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners as a confidence-building measure, the first group of whom are due to be released next week.

For now, both sides remain committed to showing up for the start of the talks.

MORE: Obama in Israel: Running to Stay Put

17 comments
jubril
jubril

The settlements will become gifts from Israel to Palestine when a peace accord is reached.

yesh1prabhu
yesh1prabhu

@Jossef:  You have written, " Ms. Prusher, first get your facts straight!  The US has not taken a position on the legality of the settlements." Well, Jossef, you are incorrect. Journalist Ali Abunimah , in a well researched article published on the electronicintifada website, on 08/07/2013, has written that there was a time when the US did indeed consider the settlements illegal.

1. The US voted for UN Security Council Resolution 465 that stated the settlements are illegal. The resolution passed unanimously, even the US voting for it.

2. President Jimmy Carter called the settlements illegal: Carter had stated his position previously, as president, for example, on 12 April 1980: “Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace. The Israeli Government, however, feels that they have a right to those settlements …” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980, p.680).

3. US Secretary of State James Baker stated at a 20 July 1991 press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that “The settlement activity is something that the United States has opposed for a long time. Our particular opposition today to settlement activity is that it constitutes an obstacle to peace. In the past, the position of the United States has been that it was, in fact, illegal” (Foreign Policy Bulletin, vol.2, no.2, Sep/Oct 1991, pp.61-62, cited in US Official Statements).

It was only during the Clinton administration that the US began to describe the settlements as "illegitimate" instead of calling them illegal. Obama's administration has decided to use Clinton's description of the settlements as illegitimate.

Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania

Jossef
Jossef

Ms. Prusher states: "Most countries in the world, including the United States, considers all settlements illegal."  Ms. Prusher, first get your facts straight!  The US has not taken a position on the legality of the settlements.  Second, countries  take positions based on their own political interests, not based on truth and justice.  That is why the UN has been spending 80% of its condomnations on Israel, almost never addresses other disputed areas of the world like Kashmire or Cyprus, and spends relatively little time  condemning Syria, Sudan for slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians while placing them on the UN Human Rights Council.  The bottom line on Judea and Samaria is that it is a disputed not occupied area, invaded by Jordan in 1948, over which no country has been given sovreignty, and which Israel took back from Jordan in 1967 after it was attacked by Jordan; it was obviously never under Palestinian sovreignty.  As to the Palestinian hysteria that Israel's decision to increase subsidies to settlements will hurt the peace process, it is just another attempt to blame Israel even before real negotiations resume and to get adavantage in the negotiations.  To get the Palestinian to return to negotiations Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands but Israel did not agree to freez settlement activities.  One should wonder why the Palestinian did not express any gratitude for the release of these murderers (who will clearly get hero welcomes).



michaelh613
michaelh613

How is releasing 104 killers a confidence building measure.

If the Arabs want peace you would think they would want people who kill women and children in jail.   It would build a lot more confidence  in the  peace  process if the Arab world were repulsed by terrorism not  embracing  it.

The entire apartheid position  of the Arab world and its Jew hating supporters that Arabs have a right to Jew free land should be repulsive to any decent person.   We wouldn't call it peace if Israel demanded the right to expel all Arabs from Israel but we expect its ok for Arabs to demand to expel Jews is OK.

The only reason that the West Bank was 100% Arab is the Jews who lived there  were all killed or expelled in 1948.  True massacres are common even in inter Arab wars today as we have seen with over 100,000 Arabs killed in the civil war in Syria where the Islamic rebels and the secular dictator battle over who can kill the most children.    Egypt too seems destined to go down that path soon too.   But the illegal destruction of Jewish homes in cities like Hebron, Gush Etzion and East Jerusalem does not provide the PLO and Hamas terrorists any right to Jew free land.


HefniT
HefniT

Israel's idea of peace talks: one step forward, two steps back.

brianadey
brianadey

@TIMEWorld And teaching kids that Jews & Christians are inferior pig loving scum is good for peace?

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

There will be no peace in the middle east, until we each bend the knee, and bow the heart before the suffering, and now exalted messiah, Jesus Christ, regardless of nationality or bounderies.........

globalpilgrim
globalpilgrim

@TIMEWorld. Biased headline. Entering 'peace talks' while simultaneously increasing illegal settlements is patently disingenious.

michaelh613
michaelh613

@hddoger @TIME @TIMEWorld  

Yes you are a good German, looking to keep us Germany's history as being a leader is Jew hatred and murder.

ALondonFly
ALondonFly

@E_Changer lol ye like that they lived there for centuries and then a book of nonsense allowed some 'jewish' Europeans to steal their land

michaelh613
michaelh613

@globalpilgrim @TIMEWorld 

  Your love of war and violence should disgust any decent person.   There is no right to kill jews just because Islam declares them descendents of pigs and apes.