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EDITORIAL: While house demolitions, other structures, and destruction of olive groves in occupied Palestinian lands has gone on unabated to make way for Jewish settlements, the new far-right Israeli government has escalated the activity authorizing legalisation of nine settlement outposts.

In a joint statement issued in Berlin on Tuesday, foreign ministers of five Western powers – Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States— said they were “deeply troubled” by the Israeli government’s decision to legalize nine settlements in the occupied West Bank, adding that they continue to closely monitor developments on the ground “which impact the viability of the two-state solution and stability in the region at large.”

Good words, but they gave no indication of any punitive action, such as imposition of sanctions those countries frequently use against nations discomfiting them.

In fact, secure in the knowledge that the Jewish state has the firm backing of its Western friends, the country’s ultra nationalist settler security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said: “the land of Israel [actually, of Palestine] belongs to the people of Israel”. He went on to assert, “This is our mission.

This is our doctrine. Nine settlements is nice, but it’s still not enough. We want much more.” It does not matter to him that the construction of settlements through forcible displacement of populations in an occupied land is a violation of international law and a form of ethnic cleansing— a war crime. Yet the Palestinians resisting such illegal and immoral acts are called ‘terrorists’ by the same countries now denouncing the settlement expansion project.

As for the two-state solution iterated by the five foreign ministers, so far it has been no more than a shibboleth to buy more time for Tel Aviv to fulfil its expansionist designs. Well over 475, 000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, and many more are to follow.

Yet there is no serious effort to stop this activity. All the big powers’ representatives have offered is their backing for a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations.” That suggestion has already been tried and failed. It may be recalled that in 1993 the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian Liberation Organisation negotiator Mahmoud Abbas – currently President of the ‘State’ of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank—had signed a Declaration of Principles, known as the Oslo Accords, at the White House.

As per the Accords, the Palestinians consented to recognise Israeli’s right to exist in peace in return for establishing Palestinian Authority (PA) and assuming governance responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five-year period, to be followed by permanent status talks on the issues of borders, refugees right to return, and Jerusalem. Many Palestinians saw that as a sell-out by the PLO. Still, it was Israel which reneged on everything it had agreed upon.

The Western powers’ statement means little unless it is to be backed by action, of which there is no sign. So the Israelis are going to go on doing what they are doing, and the Palestinian responding with the only option they have to end occupation – resistance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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