Sunday, February 5, 2012

Only Palestine Can Stop The Settlements

A heartrending story of a hunger strike in a West Bank village being gradually surrounded by "greater Israel":

Khirbet al-Tawil sits on the sides of a hill that descends into the Jordan Valley, between the Palestinian town of Aqraba and the Jewish settlement of Gitit. The village is accessed by a muddy road, which took us a long time to find. On the rocky terrain in between the fields, there were several buildings - either houses or shacks - next to animal pens and coops. When we entered the mosque, accompanied by two researchers from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and a researcher from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the residents were absorbed in lively conversation. It was noon, and they turned first to pray, kneeling on the wet rugs, their faces toward Mecca.

The stone ruins of the ancient, magnificent houses in Khirbet al-Tawil attest that Palestinians lived here for centuries. The villagers recall the stories of their ancestors who lived here, but Gitit is encroaching from northeast and Itamar is expanding from northwest; Nativ Hagdud, Yafit, Tomer and Patzael, the settlements of the valley and the surrounding slopes, are gradually choking off the Palestinians' agriculture in the valley.

But who can stop the Israeli settlements if Israel won't? Neither international pressure, hunger strikes, nor worse. Palestinian negotiators should try to win a freeze on new settlements in exchange for accepting the broad outlines of Israel's current territorial offer. They should do it now, before their future stake shrinks even more.

Hat tip to Deb Neal


Anonymous said...

his delesteI agree that Israel should stop building new settlements, but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect Palestinians to accept Israel's negotiating position on boundaries as a precondition. While "world opinion" will not change the Israel's position, U.S. pressure can and should. Our political leaders should make clear that we consider continuation of this policy (a a serious threat to U.S. long term security interests (it is, you know), (b) doomed to failure eventually, and (b) one which the U.S. will not support financially, diplomatically or militarily. I believe that this policy, if we had the political courage to announce it and stand by it, would quickly bring an end to the present Israeli government's settlements policy an, for that reason, be welcomed by a majority of the Israeli electorate which understands that their leaders' present policy is a dead end.

Fr. John said...

Thanks for your comment. That would be a good tactic for Palestinians if it had a good chance of success, but I don't think it does. No one in recent years has pushed Israel harder on settlements than Barack Obama, but Israel hasn't budged. I'm not arguing for what's fair and right. I'm arguing for what's possible, and the longer the PNA waits, the more settlements and the less an opportunity for a viable Palestine. The unity government will just make the problem worse.