A report from UN human rights rapporteur Richard Falk seems to state the obvious; that Israeli settlements make the effective annexation of the Westbank by Isreal a done deal. From the bbc:
BBC News - Israeli presence on Palestinian land 'irreversible'
It makes uncomfortable reading. The PA has had no choice but to negotiate, the people it represents having to live their daily lives via a serious of Isreali checkpoints and their livelihoods dependant to a large extent on Isreal. With Isreali settlements building now at a pace four times that which it was before the recent (and short lived) freeze the settlements look set to expend.
But it brings into focus what Likud hopes to achieve. Any escalation by Hamas could give the Likud and indeed Shas the excuse they need to further extent 'security zones' around settlements (which currently stands officially at 300m). With a PA that has no effective military, Isreal has no clear path towards claiming a military victory and justifiable excuse to extend the occupation and annexation of the Westbank on the grounds of security. Hamas though may be keen to extend Tel Aviv the opportunity.
But in the face of the Abbas government not provoking Isreal and giving Tel Aviv an excuse, what is the final plan for Likud? Surely the issue of settlements is not in itself final, but being passed onto another generation of Isreali and Palestinian politicians? How can they garner recognition for land that is not theirs? Is there a two state solution in the pipeline that involves two Israeli states? That is the only possible way forward if Isreal proper is to extracate itself from an unrecognised Westbank Jewish state and the imbargos it might invite.
There is no hope of anyone actually recognising the Westbank as Israeli soverign soil. On the basis of this report could the EU apply more economic pressure on Isreal? And if we are to do so, and assuming we are not going to be idiots about it, what price should we extract from the Arab and Muslim world for our aid?
We should perhaps now be even more cautious about the publicity seeking 'Free Gaza' types. Free Gaza? When the majority of Palestinian land is under de facto Isreali control and is annexed. Gaza is actually and rather ironically more free than the Westbank. Its inhabitants only enjoy less political freedom.
What is the way forward for the EU on this issue? And will the arab world and Iran continue to do anything other than use the Palestinians are pawns in their games of self interest?