The end of Israel’s settlement construction slowdown is set for September 26, just as direct negotiations are beginning between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. The date has been circled in red on many calendars as Netanyahu has declared that the slowdown cannot be extended while Abbas warned that the Palestinians would leave the negotiating table if it wasn’t. So is this set to be the shortest peace process ever?
Obviously, the settlement issue is an important one that could being the talks crashing down before they actually got off the ground. What is necessary is some outside-of-the-box type thinking and a little diplomatic elbow grease. Fortunately, Israel has a man that has the ingenuity to come up with such a peace-saving idea. Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein has offered the following idea to solve the settlement construction crisis:
“The game needs to be played evenly,” Edelstein said. “I suggest that if we face an approach saying that we must continue to stop construction or we would undermine the negotiations, then we should say that the freeze should be imposed on both Israel and the Palestinians.”
[tweetmeme] Brilliant! Make the Palestinians stop building on Palestinian land! That will even the playing field. Though it is obvious that Edelstein had no need to defend his logical solution, he follows through, arguing that no one knows where the final borders will be, so there should be no building at all, lest those Palestinians unjustly wrestle control over one of the illegal Israeli settlements. It in generally accepted that any final status agreement will inevitably involve some land swaps so Israel is allowed to keep some of the bigger and more important settlements.
Though it is necessary to keep in mind that the West Bank is currently divided into area A, B and C, taking up, respectfully, 17%, 24% and 59% of the land. In area A Palestine controls and administers; in B, Israel control and Palestine administers; and in C; Israel controls and administers. Furthermore, all Israeli settlements are located in area C, meaning all controversial building – Palestinian or Israeli – will be occurring in area C.
Now, to administer the area means, among many other things, to have the right to accept or reject building permits from the inhabitants of that area. Palestinians building in areas B and C shouldn’t be of importance in this debate because such malicious Palestinian construction plans would not threaten any Israeli settlements. So, perhaps Edelstein meant that there should be a bilateral construction freeze in area C – if Israelis supporting the natural growth of their settlements would disrupt peace talks, surely those pesky Palestinians only want to build in area C to threaten the settlements!
Sounds like a plan to me. Bring the proposal to Netanyahu and Abbas and they are sure to sign off in order to keep these talks moving along!
Oh, one last bit of trivial information. It has been well documented that, fortunately, Palestinians have been thwarted in their effort to take over the defenseless settlements with their wily construction plans. Israeli occupational authorities have thus far denied 94% of the building requests in area C – I mean, of course, Palestinian building requests:
Research by the Israeli group Peace Now found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for Area C building were refused between 2000 and September 2007. Only 91 permits were granted to Palestinians, but 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish settlements. As a result of demolition orders 1,663 Palestinian buildings were demolished, against only 199 in the settlements.
But what does that matter? We have finally found a solution to the settlement construction impasse! Thank you Edelstein for you creativity. Freeze Palestinian and Israeli construction in area C and prevent another 18,472 Israeli housing units and 91 Palestinian units. Israel really dodged a bullet all thanks to your sharp mind.
Photo from The Jewish Federation