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Palestinians lack strong strategy to face Israeli settlements

Palestinian movements on the diplomatic level have so far done little to stop Israel’s settlement project, which continues to expand unabated.
A Palestinian Bedouin boy herds sheep in the West Bank village of Al-Eizariya, near east of Jerusalem September 18. 2014.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS ANIMALS) - RTR46SU0

RAMALLAH, West Bank — On Sept. 16, Haaretz published the Israeli plan to deport Palestinian Bedouins from the E1 area of occupied Jerusalem, and move them to a town that would be named Nuwema Hill, north of Jericho.

Around 12,500 Palestinians are going to be affected by this project, which has stirred the ire of the Palestinians due to the grave repercussions they would have to endure, especially in Jerusalem and its surroundings.

This project comes within a series of Israeli plans for the E1 area, which aims to take over 12,000 acres of land located between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. This will isolate the city from its surroundings and separate the southern West Bank from the north and center, which is considered to be a nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.

Ahmed Rwaidy, in charge of the Jerusalem file in the Palestinian Authority (PA), told Al-Monitor, “Targeting Bedouins in Jerusalem has political, geographic and demographic dimensions, and aims to empty the land to build settlements.”

Israel increased its land grab activities last month by confiscating 4,000 dunums (988 acres) in the Bethlehem area to expand the Gush Etzion settlement in the context of the project of “Greater Jerusalem.” Israel has also issued a new decision to take over 2,000 dunums in southern Hebron. In addition, it has targeted Bedouins in Jerusalem with deportation to the Jordan Valley.

Ziad Abu Ein, deputy minister of prisoners affairs, told Al-Monitor, “The Israeli project in Jerusalem falls within the settlement policy, structured to eliminate the dream of a Palestinian state, create geographic and demographic changes and try to impose a solution and a demarcation of unilateral borders.”

Jerusalem cartographer, Khalil Tafakji, told Al-Monitor, “Deporting the Bedouins is a process of demarcation of the borders by Israel, especially in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and southern Hebron, through the emptying of these Bedouin areas and regrouping them in specific locations, since they live in vast areas.”

The Israeli government raised, in early September, the budget of the settlement department by 600%, thus reaching more that 400 million Israeli shekels ($108.2 million) dedicated to the West Bank settlements.

According to Tafakji, this means that “the two states cannot be established in light of the settlements in the West Bank, because Israel has created, since 1967, a fait accompli; there is no state between the river and the sea, other than the Jewish state.”

According to Abu Ein, there are around 600,000 settlers in the West Bank — 260,000 in Jerusalem and the rest are scattered around the West Bank. The settlements are concentrated in Area C, which represent 61% of the West Bank territories. At least 60,000 Palestinians live there, compared to roughly 400,000 settlers. This area is under the full Israeli security and administrative control, which prevents the establishment of Palestinian projects.

Regarding these Israeli steps, the authority would prefer to take the path of a diplomatic policy to confront the Israeli move.

Al-Monitor learned that the Executive Committee of the PLO formed a "political committee," headed by Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo, to study the possible political options to respond to Israel. It will submit its recommendations and ideas to the Executive Committee for ratification in the coming days.

Tayseer Khaled, member of the Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The Executive Committee discussed the settlements and there is a serious search and orientation to reshape the relationship with the occupation, including the cessation of security coordination.”

However, Tafakji, who is residing in Jerusalem, said, “The residents of Jerusalem feel they are ignored, in the absence of a Palestinian strategy.”

According to Tafakji, Israel is creating a new reality by raising the level of support to settlers and dismembering Palestinian communities in Jerusalem. It is also fragmenting Palestinian towns, in an effort to impose the Greater Jerusalem project by 2020.

The Palestinians are waiting for the PA to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, calling on it to recognize the Palestinian state and set a time frame for ending the occupation. This draft resolution has slight chances of being adopted due to a likely US veto. The PA considers this to be the beginning of the political battle with Israel.

For his part, Wasel Abu Yousef, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Front and member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that the new Palestinian strategy means ending the bilateral negotiations project and relying on UN resolutions.

He said, “In case Washington uses its right of veto [against this draft resolution], 522 international treaties will be signed, including the one concerning the International Criminal Court, and all security, political and economic agreements with Israel will be canceled.”

Nevertheless, despite the increase of settlement activities, the popular struggle against settlements seems to have decreased. These activities include the establishment of villages and the erection of tents in areas threatened to be confiscated, as happened in Bab al-Shams.

An activist in the resistance to the wall and settlements, who requested anonymity, said the ground movement has been neglected by officials and needs support and organization.

For his part, Abu Ein believes that Palestinian action must be an action on the ground, represented by violating conventions with Israel and establishing Palestinian communities in Area C without awaiting Israeli approval.

Abu Ein believes waiting for the world’s intervention is useless at a time when Israeli bulldozers are imposing facts and drawing boundaries, asserting that confrontations with the Israelis are approaching.

Meanwhile, the PA contents itself denunciation and condemnation without taking a stance that reaches up to the required level, by developing a strong strategy to face the settlers, whose numbers have increased in the West Bank fourfold since 1992.

Based on the experience of the past 20 years, the political steps to be taken by the PA, as well as international condemnation of the settlements that have not stopped being built, remain less powerful than the roar of Israeli bulldozers biting into Palestinian territory on a daily basis. The Israelis continuously implement settlement projects as a fait accompli over the ruins of the two-state solution, which is breathing its last breath.

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