What Must Happen Before Peace Happens

Can Israel make peace with its settler population?

Peace talks – thanks largely to American pressure – seem destined to evolve into direct negotiations.  Readers of the blog know that I would be shocked if the direct talks were able to produce any kind of lasting result without Israel first dealing with its expanding settlers and Palestine dealing with both the division of the political establishment and the growing authoritarianism of the Fatah party.  There were several recent reports that highlight the issues that are preventing both Palestine and Israel from being able to take the necessary steps for peace.

Peace Now – the Israeli peace group – has released a report detailing the illegal construction that has taken place during the first half of 2010, despite the much hailed construction freeze implemented by Israel last November.  According to the group, settlers have started construction on 603 projects since the beginning of the year in over 60 different settlements.  Of those, 141 projects were exempt from the freeze because they were approved before the freeze took effect, leaving 462 violations of the moratorium.  In February it was released that 28 settlements across the West Bank had violated the moratorium.  The Peace Now group did acknowledge that the freeze had cut the number of constructions projects in half, they also warned that the Israeli government was now doing enough to stop illegal construction.  Other reports show that there are currently 517,774 settlers living illegally throughout the West Bank – a statistic that has increased over 40 times since 1974.

[tweetmeme] On the Palestinian side and in addition to the already divided leadership, the Fatah-led PA has been increasingly demonstrating its authoritarian potential.  This week, PA forces raided and closed several radio and television stations throughout the West Bank – including radio stations in Ramallah and the Nablus bureau of Ma’an News.  The radio station in Ramallah claims that the forces have confiscated and are refusing to return expensive equipment.  Ma’an employees were able to videotape the entire Nablus incident, leading to the PA telecommunications minister to apologize for the closures and PM Fayyad to promise to reopen the stations.  Perhaps more depressing for Palestinian politics, Hamas has said that the PA has arrested seven Hamas supporters, including two Al-Najah University lecturers.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the arrests as politically motivated.

These reports describe the fundamental problems with the current American-backed peace process.  It is increasingly clear that there is a large segment of the Israeli population that does not desire peace with Palestine and it is increasingly unclear whether an independent Palestine will be able to politically function while maintaining a respect for human rights.  Therein is the depressing and contradicting reality of the peace process: before peace can be made, both Israel and Palestine must overcome domestic political and social issues.  Unfortunately, each passing day diminishes the possibility of peace.

Photo from IS Bangkok

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