Why Blast When You Can—And Do—Build?


Maaleh Adumim.

As a long-time observer of Israeli government policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian people, I don’t understand why Israel’s leaders feel they must loudly trumpet their opposition to Palestinian statehood and/or basic rights. On any given day, we get to hear that virtually anything Palestinians do or say is The! Worst! Thing! Ever! (and, of course, woe betide any who might venture the opinion that, hey, maybe not).

I say this because, as per the usual, the hyperbole surrounding yesterday’s statehood vote at the United Nations General Assembly was a thing to behold: Palestinian President Abbas’s decision to go to the U.N. was “pure diplomatic terror”! His speech was “venomous”! Members of Knesset try to burn the Palestinian flag!

Yet if we’re to be brutally frank, bluster and threats are entirely unnecessary. Israel doesn’t need to convince the world of its position or to take extreme measures to make sure that Palestine’s nascent statehood dies in the cradle. All Israel needs to do is stay its decades-long course and keep sending out bulldozers.

Witness the report that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s morning-after response to the statehood vote is 3000 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as expedited work in the E-1 “envelope,” a development project intended to geographically join Jerusalem to the settlement of Maaleh Adumim and thus cut the West Bank in half. And thus destroy territorial contiguity for any Palestinian state. And thus drive a final nail in the coffin of the notion of two-state peace.

Though impressive in scope, there is, in fact, nothing new in these plans—indeed, even though Netanyahu committed to President Obama upon taking office that he would not build in E-1, that piece of it can’t be considered a breach with the past either. After all, Israel is forever promising the U.S. one thing and then doing quite another, in particular with regard to the settlements.

Remember the 2003 George W. Bush-backed Road Map to Peace? Here’s what Israel agreed to there, signing its name alongside that of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia:

Government of Israel immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001; consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

Yeah. Not so much.

And remember the vaunted/vilified ten-month “settlement freeze” of 2009? In response to pressure from the Obama administration, Netanyahu announced a ten-month moratorium on building in the West Bank (though very pointedly not in the legal fiction that is East Jerusalem) in November; on January 1, 2010, Haaretzreported that

Despite the construction freeze, dozens of settlements in the West Bank are experiencing a building boom… According to data collected by Dror Etkes of Yesh Din, and by Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, construction is being carried out in more than 50 settlements and in two other industrial zones.

All this building was made possible largely by the fact that while the White House was wrangling with Netanyahu earlier in the year, construction crews were furiously pouring foundations—because any construction already underway was allowed to continue under the “freeze.”

And just in case anyone’s harboring any doubts about what might happen after Israel’s upcoming elections—the results of the recent Likud primaries should serve as a bracing corrective.

Yesterday’s UNGA vote was a historic moment, and who can tell but some lasting, tangible good may come of it. I don’t know how individual Palestinians are feeling about their nation having achieved “non-member observer state” status. Honestly, if it were me, I imagine I might have wept last night, and possibly thrown a party.

But I’m not Palestinian, and from where I sit, the vote hardly matters. Unless and until the international community, and at its head the President of the United States, should decide to hold Israel to international law and its own signed commitments, a right-wing led Israel will continue to take daily unilateral action to change the facts on the ground so that a viable Palestinian state becomes a literal impossibility.

No heartrending hasbara necessary.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.


Palestine vote at the UN General Assembly – sources.

I have NO TIME — I have an actual, factual deadline here — but I’m of course obsessing about the Palestine vote at the UNGA, even though that’s not what I’m supposed to be writing about (international labor and safety are very worthy topics, Contract Client! Just not what I’m thinking about today).

However, I figure folks might be coming here for a little clarity on the event, so I thought I’d throw up a rolling post with sources, adding as I find new ones.

  1. If you want to watch things unfold (whenever that starts – Abbas was supposed to start speaking at 3 pm EST, but it’s now 3:20 and, so far, bubkes 3:30 EST update – they’ve started): CSPN
  2. This is from the terrific +972: Q&A: Implications of the recognition of Palestinian statehood
  3. Also from +972: What Palestinian statehood means for International Criminal Court jurisdiction over Israeli crimes
  4. My Twitter list of sources I follow for issues Israel/Palestine/Middle East – it’s not in the least exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start if you just want to take a peek at what’s going on and what the mood is (it’s worth noting that all of Syrian internet has been shut down and the Damascus airport has no flights in and out or, indeed, radar today – all very, very bad signs, so that’s something else to keep an eye on, too).

update: JJ Goldberg in The Forward: Who Stands Against Peace? Palestinians Are Sounding Reasonable as Israel Drifts Right.


  1. Another good Q & A, from Barack Ravid at HaAretz: Everything you need to know about the Palestinian bid at the UN: Nine questions and answers
  2. The final tally: 138 voted for upgrading Palestine to “non-member observer state” status, 41 abstentions (including Germany and Holland), and nine “no”s. Click here to see the list of how each state voted.