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Date: Sat, 11 Jul 98 10:24:33 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: ISRAEL: Settlement Report, July/August
Article: 38756
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.6753.19980712121604@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 112.0 **/
** Topic: ISRAEL: Settlement Report, July/August **
** Written 4:32 PM Jul 10, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 2:05 PM Jul 8, 1998 by issa@ibrahimieh.edu in mideast.levant */
/* ---------- Settlement Report -- July-August 19 ---------- */

Palestinian leadership fails to understand the importance of settlements

By Geoffrey Aronson, The Settlement Report
Vol. 8, no. 4, July-August 1998

Israeli leaders, led by Ariel Sharon, with his ubiquitous maps charting every meter of West Bank real estate, are well schooled in the value of an intimate knowledge of the land itself. During the course of the Oslo process, they have used their superior knowledge to great advantage.

The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, has distinguished itself by its almost total lack of interest in or firsthand familiarity with the situation on the ground. They have not been able to avoid seeing Ma'ale Adumim or Givat Ze'ev, expanding suburbs of Jerusalem, but if one mentions places such as Dolev or Talmon--the Ma'ale Adumims and Givat Ze'evs of tomorrow--their faces go blank.

The diplomatic path that the Palestinians have joined, and the conditions that characterize it, leave them few options to materially change either the pace or the implications of Israel's settlement policies. Those Palestinians who oversaw the creation of this diplomatic framework either willfully ignored the centrality of settlements or, more likely, inexplicably failed to understand their importance as the prime indicator of Israeli intentions. For while Palestinian leaders may have conceded that many if not most settlements will remain as part of a peace agreement, they have failed to confront the fact that the continued existence of these outposts also legitimizes a permanent, preponderant Israeli military role throughout the territories, which will necessarily compromise the realization of genuine Palestinian sovereignty anywhere in Palestine.

There is a widely held belief among diaspora Palestinians conducting talks with Israel that the physical transformation of the land as represented by settlement expansion is of little importance in determining Israel's strategic demands and can (and will) be undone through a political decision by negotiators. The precedent of Yamit and other Sinai settlements, which were destroyed when the Sinai was returned to Egypt, is often mentioned in support of this thesis.

That the Sinai was ceded precisely in order to safeguard Israel's control of the West Bank, including settlement expansion, and the fact that a peace agreement between two strong states such as Egypt and Israel is qualitatively different from an Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement are only two of the many reasons why the Sinai settlement analogy has little relevance to the viability of settlements on the West Bank.

Nevertheless, ever since the demise of the Palestinian delegation to Washington--composed of Palestinians hailing from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who negotiated during the Washington talks preceding the Oslo announcement in September 1993--there has not been any powerful, articulate voice among the Palestinian leadership, arguing, as Gazan negotiator Haidar Abdul Shafi did, that a halt to settlement expansion is a basic requirement of any negotiating framework.

PA chairman Yasser Arafat is briefed infrequently on Israel's settlement policy, and his response is generally stunned silence as he looks at the maps depicting the dimensions of the enterprise. Palestinian Authority negotiators Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Ahmad Quray (Abu Ala) have never been on a settlement tour. If one is to judge by their negotiating priorities, they have no concept of the role of settlements in the history of Israel's policies in the occupied territories, nor do they believe that such an understanding is required. Settlements can be made to disappear, or to dry up, with the stroke of an Israeli diplomat's pen. Failing that, they have come to believe that the most important objective for this generation of Palestinians, overriding the need to constrain the transfer of Israelis into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is to establish the foundations for Palestinian sovereignty on whatever territories Israel can be persuaded to surrender.

The American Initiative, approved in London recently by Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, and now under consideration by the Israeli government, like previous agreements since 1993, contains no meaningful restriction on settlement expansion. The draft agreement does contain an Israeli agreement not to construct new settlements nor to engage in the substantial expansion of settlements outside contiguous areas. But these are, in fact, the exact formulations that have been used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself for more than one year. During this period, almost 20 new settlement areas have been established and ground has been broken for thousands of new dwelling units in almost every settlement. (See Settlement Reports, March and May 1998.)

The use of these formulations testifies to the failure not only of the Palestinians to contain Israel's settlement drive, it is also a stark reminder of the inability of U.S. diplomacy to impart real meaning to its vociferous demand for a settlement expansion time out.

The agreement to maintain settlements during the interim period has established a precedent that will be difficult to alter in final-status talks. More Palestinians are beginning to acknowledge that permitting any settlements to remain in final status will obstruct their achievement of any credible degree of sovereignty in the West Bank or Gaza, not necessarily because of settlements themselves--they directly control less than 15 percent of the West Bank--but also because of the extensive security measures required to insure their existence. Such measures include the ever-expanding system of roads linking settlements with each other and with main access arteries to Israel and the permanent presence of the Israel Defense Forces in the territories.

To Our Readers

The status of the deal forged between the government of Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO is less settled today than it has been at any time since 1993.

The original timetable for implementation of commitments made in the Oslo II accords--and then amended, with U.S. support--as part of Israel's redeployment from Hebron in January 1997, has been distorted out of all recognition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising an Israeli decision before the end of July on the American Initiative calling for a 13 percent redeployment from the West Bank and implementation of security agreements concluded late last year. Even if this objective is realized, implementation of the three-stage plan for handing over additional territory to the Palestinian Authority is bound to be delayed until year's end and, in all likelihood, will not be completed before the May 1999 date marking the end of the interim period established by the Oslo agreement.

This stumbling adherence to the Oslo commitments undertaken by Israelis and Palestinians is, however, a consequence of a serious structural fault in the diplomatic framework that has deepened since Netanyahu's election two years ago.

U.S. policy makers have not yet recovered from the defeat of Shimon Peres. In the absence of Israeli leadership for peace, the Clinton administration has proven unable to pursue a credible strategy for fulfilling even the limited prospects of the Oslo framework. The recent spectacle of off-again on-again U.S. ultimatums for acceptance of its redeployment initiative raise grave doubts about the seriousness of U.S. intentions, postponing if not jeopardizing the realization of legitimate Palestinian, and Israeli, aspirations.

President Ezer Weizman shares our concern. He believes the peace process is limping and has called for early elections in Israel. New elections may not be the answer to the current stalemate, but some action is essential.

Arabs Decry Need to Labor in Settlements

Pass by most settlements and one can see a number of Palestinian cars parked outside the entry gate. These belong to Palestinian laborers, numbering 12,000: 3,500 who work in the Erez industrial zone and settlements in the Gaza Strip, and 8,500 in industrial parks and settlements in the West Bank, excluding those working in the settlement communities of East Jerusalem.

Palestinian labor in Israeli settlements falls into three basic categories: construction, agriculture, and industry. There have been no studies aimed at estimating the extent of Palestinian participation in the settlement-related labor force. Such evidence as exists is anecdotal, although Palestinians have traditionally made up the bulk of the workforce engaged in the construction and daily maintenance of settlements throughout the occupied territories.

A Palestinian laborer from the West Bank working at the Eli settlement lamented his fate. What logic is there to this--that Arabs build houses for Jews on land belonging to Arabs? Why am I doing this? Because I must work and earn money for my family. So I build, and in my heart I pray that tomorrow they will return all this land to Arabs, and I hate myself, but I have no choice.