ISRAEL

Settlers proudly display evidence of construction in West Bank

A week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told settlers to stop building in the West Bank, a settler posted photos of them doing just that, on his blog. Read more...

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A week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told settlers to stop building in the West Bank, a settler posted photos of them doing just that, on his blog.

It's no secret - angry settler leaders have publicly stated that they will defy the Israeli government's order to put a halt to construction in the West Bank. On Wednesday a council leader was arrested after local protestors tried to stop policemen halting construction. The following day (Dec. 3), Netanyahu met with settlers, but failed to appease them, despite offering tax breaks and funding for schools once the 10-month freeze is up.

The believed confidence-building gesture was supposed to help revive peace talks with the Palestinian Territories, but they're not happy either, as the plan excludes East Jerusalem.

“The moratorium on building in the West Bank is a tactic to gain time”

Lisa Goldman is a blogger and journalist from Tel Aviv.

The protestors' raison d'être is to settle the West Bank and ultimately to make it part of Israel, so their default is to protest any attempt to stop them from expanding and building. My impression is that, whether they believe Netanyahu is going to betray them and freeze growth or not, they are compelled for ideological reasons to react.

I cannot say what is going on in Netanyahu's head, of course. I can only point to a couple of facts:

  • Settlement in East Jerusalem, which the international community and the Palestinian Authority regard as part of the occupied West Bank, continues. Israel's official position is that East and West Jerusalem compose the united, indivisible capital of Israel. This is a mainstream opinion amongst the Israeli public, too, so I doubt any prime minister would have the courage to give up Israeli rights to East Jerusalem, which means Jewish growth there will continue.
  • Last week, ground was broken for new schools in several West Bank settlements. The government declared that the freeze does not apply to schools.

I do not believe the moratorium on building in the West Bank for 10 months will have any real effect. There have been several freezes in the past. It's usually a tactic to gain time, or a placating gesture.

Most Palestinians say that they would only accept a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. They are not particularly interested in compromise. Nor are the Israelis. Both, of course, claim that they are willing to compromise but it's the other side which is recalcitrant."

"You will have to arrest every single Jewish leader in this country for illegal construction!"

The photos were taken in Efrat (West Bank). They were posted by an American-born settler who lives in Shomron, in the northern West Bank, along with the following comment on his blog, The Muqata.

"We were sent these pictures from one such ‘illegal' construction site in what was once a legal, law-abiding town. Seen ‘illegally' pouring, mixing concrete, and building at this site are various heads of Judea and Samaria municipalities, elected officials and regional leaders from Yehuda, Shomron, Gush Etzion, as well as mayors from various towns in Israel. [Chief rabbi of Efrat] Riskin was also there.

The clear message was sent out to Bibi and Barack [Netanyahu and Obama], ‘You will have to arrest every single Jewish leader in this country for illegal construction, because we don't accept your illegal, undemocratic freeze'.

Rabbi Riskin said that when the police, army, and inspectors come, no-one is to raise their hands or voices against them, but to lie down in front of their vehicles."