Palestinian construction worker in Har Homa 390.
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
The present Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-led government – which according to all recent
polls will remain in office after the January 22 election – has been bombarded
with condemnations from home and from abroad for building in Jerusalem and in
consensus settlement blocs.
Not only European nations traditionally
critical of Israel but also allies such as the US and Germany have issued
strongly worded denunciations of the housing projects. Even Tzipi Livni, head of
a new party bearing her name, and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid have weighed in against
But the fact is that all governments – both left-wing and
right-wing – have backed building in Jewish east Jerusalem and in the large
settlement blocs. A majority of Israelis have viewed Jewish neighborhoods in
Jerusalem such as Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo and Ramat Shlomo as an integral part of the
state since they came into Israeli control in the wake of the Six Day
Large settlements such as Efrat, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim are seen
as remaining a part of Israel in any two-state solution reached with the
Palestinians. Indeed, on at least two occasions – during the 2000 Clinton
Parameters negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Barak and PLO chairman
Yasser Arafat and during the 2008 Annapolis negotiations between then-prime
minister Ehud Olmert and Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas – Israeli government
heads insisted on holding onto the major settlement blocs on the West Bank and
instead “swapping” land inside the Green Line to compensate for
This is clear proof that even centrist or left-of-center
governments have seen the large settlement blocs as no less integral to the
Jewish state as unsettled land inside the Green Line.
Detractors of the
present government’s decision to build inevitably are forced to admit to this
fact. But they are quick to add that unlike past governments, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s has failed to keep up negotiations with the Palestinians.
Livni said as much in an interview on Israel Radio this week.
reality, however, is that any real chances for negotiations after Netanyahu’s
June 2009 Bar-Ilan speech – in which he publicly supported a two-state solution
– were ruined by the major diplomatic blunder of the Obama administration. By
demanding that Israel initiate a self-imposed building freeze – including in
settlement blocs and in Jewish east Jerusalem – President Barack Obama
unintentionally added yet another obstacle to bringing the sides to the
negotiating table. Netanyahu’s right-of-center government could never agree to a
building freeze in the capital as Washington demanded, because a majority of
Israelis would oppose such a move, and the Palestinians would never take a more
lenient position on building in Jerusalem than the Americans.
a strong majority of Israelis has consistently supported a two-state solution
for well over a decade, Palestinians both in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and
in the West Bank have remained unwavering in their irredentism and if anything
have grown more extreme in their rejection of a Jewish state existing anywhere
in “Palestine.” A Smith Research/Jerusalem Post
poll published this week found
that a clear majority of Israelis believe that the establishment of a
demilitarized Palestinian state is Israel’s best chance for remaining both
Jewish and democratic in 20 years’ time. A full 62 percent supported the
principle of “two states for two peoples.”
In contrast, a new poll by
Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found
that 48% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would vote for Hamas leader
Ismail Haniyeh, and just 45% for Abbas, if elections were held today. One of the
reasons for Hamas’s increased popularity is its perceived “victory” against
Israel during last month’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
In other words, a
plurality of Palestinians supports an anti-Semitic terrorist organization (the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion is included in its official Charter) that vows
to destroy Israel and aims rockets and mortar shells at innocent men, women and
It is Palestinian intransigence, not Jewish building in
consensus Jerusalem neighborhoods and settlement blocs, that is the real
obstacle to a negotiated peace and a two-state solution. Most Israelis
understand this, which explains the present government’s popularity. Perhaps one
day the world will understand it, too.