Israel’s settlement expansion project will have an ugly ending

Israel’s settlement expansion project will have an ugly ending

The more the settlements expand, the less chance there is of a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict (File/AFP)
Short Url

Jerusalem’s District Planning Committee last week approved two statutory plans that will allow the construction of almost 4,000 residential settlement units in East Jerusalem. These settlements fulfill the vision of the Netanyahu government, which is driven by an extremist ideology. Most importantly, the plans are a silver bullet to any hopes of a two-state solution.

Following the Aqaba summit in February, which brought together high-level officials from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and the US, Israel committed to “stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.” However, the summit had no real value as Tel Aviv immediately reneged on its promises. Responding to the announcement, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said “there won’t be a freeze on construction and development, not even for one day.”

The settlements that are being constructed today were at the planning stage when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office. However, the settlements that were approved last week are totally new. These settlements are not just another harmful development, they have a strategic implication for the future of Jerusalem.

Kidmat Zion is a new settlement enclave to be built on the border between Ras Al-Amud and Abu Dis in an area that has, until now, been inhabited entirely by Palestinians. It is an enclave, not a neighborhood, as the area is solely Palestinian. When completed, its 384 housing units will make it the largest settlement enclave in East Jerusalem. This is part of a government plan to encircle the Old City with biblically motivated settlement projects.

The more the settlements expand, the less chance there is of a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

The second plan provides for the construction of 3,500 housing units adjacent to the Givat Hamatos neighborhood. The plan includes 1,300 hotel rooms and 25 30-story buildings along the Hebron road. As well as expanding the settlement project, this plan is another part of the strategic goal of creating a buffer zone between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

If Israel has shown us anything, it is its unwillingness to compromise on its settlement policy. The more the settlements expand, the less chance there is of a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

These settlement plans will create a radical change in the character of Jerusalem. According to lawyer Daniel Seidemann, these settlements would be another blow to the already-challenged two-state solution. Though the US’ Biden administration is now openly criticizing the Netanyahu government and though public opinion, even in America, is appalled by the expansion of settlements, Israel’s leaders do not seem to flinch.

The likes of Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir do not seem to question what the end game of their own policies might be. They are aiming to make a two-state solution impossible. Of course, their ultimate aim is to push the Palestinians to Jordan and to have the entirety of historical Palestine for themselves. However, this will not happen. The other undeclared aim is to contain the Palestinians within ghettos or refugee camps inside Palestine — and this is dangerous.

The entire world should stand up to this preposterous plan. The Netanyahu government is banking on the fact that there are too many problems in the region, meaning no outside party is willing to dedicate enough effort to find a solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are all problematic. Palestine is one tiny piece in this complex puzzle. However, the world should not accept such a situation. Is this deja vu? Masses of people confined to ghettos.

The likes of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir do not seem to question what the end game of their own policies might be

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

The Arabs have put perks on the table for Israel to grab if its leaders ever decide to act rationally. However, the right-wing Israeli government is so blinded by its biblical vision that it is failing to see the end game. The right wing is now so vocal that any veneer of civility has finally fallen. These extremists are now publicly saying that there is nothing called Palestine and the Palestinians have no right to have a country of their own. Even those who support Israel are appalled by this proposition because they know that the end of Palestine as a state would mean the end of Israel as a “Jewish state,” yet ideology is blinding the current government.

The Netanyahu government also does not realize that it has crossed the threshold of tolerance for settlements. While it thinks the world is too busy with its many other problems, meaning it can quarantine Palestinians in confined areas, it missed one detail. Today, the settlers are transgressing Christian places in the city. They are trying to erase the Christian character of the city. Their vicious activities have now extended to the Mount of Olives. Christians believe Jesus spent his last days on the mount, while in the Hebrew Bible it is the place where the resurrection will begin.

When the Western world sees that Israel is moving on the cradle of Christianity, the entire discourse will change. Settlements will no longer be a trivial issue that are not discussed in light of the more “important” issues going on in the region. This will be a prime issue that will greatly upset the West.

The settlements will have an ugly ending for everyone — for the Palestinians who will lose their homes, for Israel, which will lose its soul, and for both Israel as a state and for Palestine as a potential state. However, the likes of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich do not seem to see this ugly end, as they are fixated on a crusade to capture whatever land they can without thinking about the price they will have to pay later on.

  • Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib is a specialist in US-Arab relations with a focus on lobbying. She is president of the Research Center for Cooperation and Peace Building, a Lebanese nongovernmental organization focused on Track II.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view