Signals are coming from Washington that the Obama team will during the remaining months make new efforts to restart peace talks on the Israel-Palestine conflict. At the same time the French government is pursuing its project to establish a meaningful framework for genuine negotiations. The so called Quartet – US, EU, Russia and the UN Secretariat – has come out with agreed positions, one of which is a strong call for termination of the Israeli settlement activities.
But Prime Minister Netanyahu is certainly not cooperating with this these efforts, in particular not with the French initiative. Instead, his government is stepping up the expansion of settlements. New permissions are given for hundreds of units in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. More than half a million now reside in these illegal settlements.
Protests from the US government, the EU and UN representatives have so far been ignored. The reaction from the US State Department has been particularly strong:
“The United States is deeply concerned about Israel’s reported plans to build an additional 323 units in settlements in East Jerusalem on top of 770 units previously announced in the settlement of Gilo”.
“These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution”.
The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, stated that the Israeli policies are destroying prospects for a Palestinian state.
“I remain increasingly concerned by the near-daily advancement of the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.
In the midst of Israel’s acceleration of the settlement activities, the Republican Party decided at its convent to ditch any support to a two-state solution, a position largely influenced by Netanyahu’s agitation during his previous visits to the US. Now obviously embarrassed by this situation he made a statement that he was in favor of two states side by side (which he has said before – with conditions making the position totally meaningless).
Also, we have learned that when it comes Netanyahu deeds are definitely more important than words. For the moment he is busy building relations with the new dictator in Cairo and with the Saudi regime. One purpose is obviously to create an alibi for not supporting the serious initiatives from the outgoing Obama administration or the French government.
As before Netanyahu’s policy is to maintain the status quo. No compromises for peace.