Hunger striking settlers: Benjamin Netanyahu must keep pledge to build new settlement

The new campaign by the Amona families is part of a number of right-wing initiatives designed to pressure Netanyahu to stand against the cautionary warnings by the Trump Administration to restrain settlement activity.

Among the diplomatic red lines they want Netanyahu to cross, is the creation of a new settlement.

It’s a move that goes against past Israeli obligations to the United States.

Boaron said the Prime Minister’s Office promised two weeks ago that Netanyahu planned to keep his promise, but they have heard nothing since his return from Australia earlier this week, in spite of repeated efforts to make contact.

“We are completely disconnected. If the Prime Minister and his people want to contact us, they know where to find us. We are not far away,” he said.

To move forward, he said, the government must formally vote to approve the new community, without that nothing can happen, Boaron said.

The PMO said in response that Netanyahu intended to fulfill his promise to the Amona residents. But Netanyahu has also indicated to reporters that this is not something that can happen now.

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Britain denounced for defending Israel in international forums

Palestinian and European officials on Monday slammed the UK’s apparent readiness to defy international consensus and stand up for Israel, accusing London of aligning with Jerusalem to garner favor with the incoming Trump administration.

“We were expecting the United Kingdom, in particular, to play an effective role in the international system that rejects the Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise,” Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement released Monday evening, hours after the government of Prime Minister Theresa May blocked a French effort to have the European Union endorse a peace conference it held Sunday.

“The United Kingdom should revise its positions by holding Israel accountable, as well as support the Palestinian and international initiatives. It is time to end the historic injustice that befell our people who will soon mark the anniversary of the infamous Balfour Declaration.”

Hanan Ashrawi, another senior PLO official, charged that instead of “rectifying its historical responsibility” for the Palestinian “tragedy,” London is “compounding its culpability.”

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The Real Illegal Settlements

As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition to overlooking the Palestinian building project, the West has clearly been neglecting a crucial difference between the two efforts: while the construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.

In this behind-the-scenes endeavor, which does not meet even the most minimum standards required by engineers, architects and housing planners, the Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground.

A quick tour of the areas surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south easily exposes the colossal construction that is taking place there. In most cases, these high-rise buildings are slapped together without licenses or any adequate planning or safety concerns.

The Jewish outpost of Amona in the central West Bank, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. In 2006, the High Court of Israel ruled that the outpost is illegal under Israeli law because it lies on private Palestinian land. In 2014, the High Court ordered the government to evacuate and demolish the entire outpost within two years.

In Israel, as Amona demonstrates, no one is above the law. Israel boasts an independent judiciary system that is second to none.

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Australian PM condemns ‘one-sided’ UN settlement resolution

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke with much of the international community on Friday, attacking last week’s United Nations Security Council Resolution as “one-sided” and “deeply unsettling.”

Turnbull, speaking at a menorah-lighting ceremony at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, said that “Australia stands with Israel. We support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” The Australian Jewish News reported.

Turnbull’s comments come after his foreign minister said Thursday Australia would likely have voted against United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.

The resolution determined that Israel’s establishment of settlements anywhere outside the pre-1967 lines “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution did not distinguish between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Thursday, the British government, which voted for the resolution, criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry’s subsequent speech for focusing on Israeli settlements and commenting negatively on the makeup of the Israeli cabinet. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said it was inappropriate of Kerry to attack the makeup of the democratically elected Israeli government. “We do not … believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” the spokesman said. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.” The British government, the spokesman added, “believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties supported by the international community.”

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Israel urges Washington to veto resolution on settlements

The US would be in breach of its commitment to not back one-sided anti-Israel resolutions, if the administration were to allow an Egyptian-proposed resolution on settlements to pass Thursday at the United Nations Security Council, a senior Israeli official said.

Israel’s security cabinet was holding an urgent meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday evening ahead of the expected vote later in the day.

“We hope America doesn’t breach its longstanding commitment to advance peace through negotiations,” a senior official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity, hours before the vote. “If they don’t veto, it will be a last gasp by the Obama administration, as they expect policy to change with the new [Trump] administration. We hope President Obama stays true to his words in 2011 that peace won’t come through statements at the UN.”

At his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2011, Obama declared: “Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”

Over the last few months, as Jerusalem prepared for a possible anti-Israel resolution at the Security Council, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often quoted that passage from Obama’s speech, insisting that the White House block any effort to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace effort via international forums.

“The US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday,” Netanyahu wrote in a tweet posted early Thursday.

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Israeli Settlements, the Violet Line and the Cheshire Cat

If there is anything that perplexes good friends of Israel, it is the issue of settlements beyond the “Green Line” (a misleading term, as we shall see). In a familiar phenomenon, a foreign politician arrives in Jerusalem to make a speech that manifests genuine admiration of the State of Israel and its achievements, but proceeds to an equally genuine cry of distress over its settlement policies. Why? Because they are supposedly “illegal under international law.”

These friends, as we shall see, are making a widespread basic mistake. Because of the endless talk of a “two-state solution,” the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is viewed as if it had always been a war between two states. In fact, it began as a civil war under the British Mandate for Palestine and continued as such until at least the late 1980s. By that time, almost all the present settlements were already in existence. Consequently, the provisions of international law that should apply to them are those that pertain to civil wars, not to inter-state wars.

Preliminaries

To start with, let us set aside some questions whose answer is relatively simple. First, the present Israeli occupation of lands acquired during the Six Day War of 1967 is not illegal per se, because it resulted from aggression by the neighboring states concerned. Hostilities with Egypt started when Egypt blockaded the Israeli port of Eilat, an act of aggression that was followed by Egypt’s demand for the removal of United Nations peacekeepers from the border between the two states (obviously in preparation for further acts of aggression). Hostilities with Jordan began with a Jordanian bombardment of the Israeli part of Jerusalem. As for Syria, it had for years been engaged in constant aggression by way of encroachments into Israeli territory and bombardment of Israeli villages from the Golan Heights. Moreover, a recent expert report (2012) of the International Committee of the Red Cross emphasized that International Humanitarian Law “did not set any limits to the time span of an occupation” (see p. 72); rather, the longer the occupation lasted, the more the “occupying power” was required to upgrade the infrastructure, etc., for the benefit of the inhabitants.

Second, the sale of goods produced in those Israeli settlements is not illegal in most of the world’s markets. In the European Union (EU), for example, it is legal under two conditions. One condition is obligatory: those goods do not enjoy the reductions in customs duties that pertain to free trade agreements between Israel and the EU, because these agreements apply explicitly to the area of pre-1967 Israel. The other condition is optional: the EU Commission issued guidelines in November 2015 on how to label such products. After a fuss, the Commission conceded that the individual European governments could decide whether and how to implement the guidelines, while emphasizing that such labeling is not a boycott and that the EU opposes any boycotts of Israel. (See here for a comprehensive discussion of the matter, also regarding other disputed territories.)

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