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Israel announces new settlements in the Occupied Territories

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference at the Walter Washington Convention Center
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference at the Walter Washington Convention Center
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Israel announced on June 5 that it would begin construction on hundreds of homes for Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The building of these settlements beyond the “green line”, otherwise known as the pre-1967 war borders, and the only internationally legitimized boundaries of Israel, have been a constant source of anger from large cadres of the international community.

Although this “settlement building” which is a popular euphemism for the forced removal of Palestinians from the small amount of land that still remains under their control, is common and very popular with the Israeli public, it is very provocative.

Many people have attributed this round of settlement construction to the new Hamas-Fatah unity government of both occupied territories. Since 2006, there has been a stark divide between Hamas, who took control of the Gaza Strip by force, and Fatah, the successor to the PLO, was left controlling the West Bank separate from the Gaza Strip. Fatah, although by no means a completely peaceful and conciliatory political party, has a record of engaging and supporting fewer violent actions and demonstrations, where as Hamas still has yet to renounce violence as a tool. Many nations in the West regard Hamas as a terrorist organization due to the seizure of the Gaza Strip (although that seizure was after winning a majority of parliamentary seats, that they lost after fighting Palestinian Authority troops for control of Gaza).

Israel wants a rejection of violence to be one of the foundational building blocks for establishing a two state peace, so the inclusion of Hamas into the Palestinian Authority has resulted in Israel ending the negotiations that Secretary of State John Kerry began almost a year and a half ago.

Unfortunately for Israel, world opinion is changing faster than their domestic politics or public opinion. Many European nations are really starting to push back against Israel’s settlement construction in Palestinian territory. The BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) has begun to gain some traction in the United States. It has not become a mainstream position, but it has become relevant enough that many unconditional supporters of Israel have viciously attacked the character and motives of people who would support boycott, divestment or sanctions. Accusations of terrorist sympathies or venomous anti-Semitism are commonly tossed at those who feel that they must try to take some sort of non-violent action to try to force Israel to allow Palestinians to acquire the most fundamental of human rights.

The sad truth is that those who claim to love Israel the most, and who most ardently and loudly pledge fealty to Israel as a Jewish state are the same people that most endanger it’s status as a protected homeland for the Jewish people in the long term. It is important for the Jewish people to have a land in which they will never be subject to the kind of terror that was inflicted on them during the first half of the 20th century, but part of securing that peaceful state is making sure the Palestinian people have enough land to viably construct a separate state, as well as taking steps to retain international support.

The current policies of settlement building, as well as indefinite detentions, aggressive policing, targeted killings, and many of the other tactics revealed in the documentary, The Gatekeepers, do little to help Israel’s long term goal of being a safe haven for the long suffering Jewish people.