It is becoming clear that Israel's new Prime Minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanhyahu, is currently on a collision course with the new President of the United States, Barak Obama, over the steps Israel is being required to take to show it's committement to bringing about a Peace agreement with the Palestinians in the format of the long preferred two-state solution.
The American administration has called for a complete settlement freeze in order that they can progress with negotiations with Palestinians and the Arab world at large for a comprehensive regional peace agreement.
But, for the slow learner, what exactly do they mean by this ?
Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem are included in the US demand that Israel halt "settlement" construction, including for natural growth, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told The Jerusalem Post during a press briefing on Monday.
"We're talking about all settlement activity, yes, in the area across the line," he said, referring to neighborhoods in Jerusalem over the Green Line, or pre-1967 armistice line, in response to a question on where America's calls to halt construction in the settlements would be applied.
US: Settlement freeze includes east J'lem | Israel | Jerusalem Post
The current right wing Israeli government maintians that this is unreasonable as the "Natural Growth" of the settlements need to be catered for. By natural growth they are referring to the housing units that would be required to house the offspring of the people currently living in settlements who wish to move out of their paternal homes yet continue to live at the same location. Or in the words of Israel's Bibi :
"We can't accept the idea that families will not bring children into the world, or that children will have to move away from their parents"
The problem with all this, is that in the eyes of most of the world, the settlements i.e. all construction East of the 1967 Armistice Line are illegal under International Law. For example, below is the statement by B'tselem the Israeli Human Rights group on the illegality of the Settlements under International Law
The establishment of settlements in the West Bank violates international humanitarian law which establishes principles that apply during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit an occupying power from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.
The establishment of settlements results in the violation of the rights of Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.
The illegality of the settlements under international humanitarian law does not affect the status of the settlers. The settlers constitute a civilian population by any standard, and include children, who are entitled to special protection. Although some of the settlers are part of the security forces, this fact has absolutely no bearing on the status of the other residents of the settlements
The primary requirement for the success of a Two-State Solution is a viable contiguous land mass upon which the proposed Palestinian State can come into existence. It cannot be denied that without this minimal requirement the Two-State Solution is not possible. Many argue that with the extent of settlement construction already present in the lands East of the 1967 Armistice Line, the Two-State Solution is already defunct and only a One-State or Bi-National State Solution is now practical. A look at the map of the current state of settlement construction across the West Bank , along with the intricate maze of checkpoints and access roads suggests a very poor prognosis indeed for the likelihood of the formation of a contiguous state from the fragmented areas of land left unaffected by the settlements and the illegal infrastructure which services them.
This burning issue of the settlements is not the only problem facing the parties who truly wish to seek a just and lasting peace agreement for this decades long conflict but for Bibi and Barak it seems to be the issue over which they are both destined to lock horns and show to each of their constituencies the strength of their resolve.
For Barack Obama nothing less than US international prestige is at stake here as he hopes to prove that the US is the only broker capable of bringing the parties together under fair circumstances.
For Bibi it is his position as Prime Minister that is on the line as he dares not show weakness in the face of this rising US pressure.
For the settlers it is a day of reckoning that has been long in the making and for the Palestinians it is their last hope of forming an Independent Palestinian State.
So there can be no doubt that the stakes are high and that this question of the Settlements must be dealt with comprehensively in order that the last chance for peace is not missed.
Znet: Israel’s Settlement Blocs Carve Up the West Bank | International Solidarity Movement Palestine
As Palestinians, we have expressed our willingness to live together on this land with the Jewish people, and to live in one democratic state with Jewish Israelis as equal citizens. However, most Jewish Israelis and their politicians have clearly stated that they must live in a Jewish state, not in a state for all of its citizens. For this reason, we agreed to live in two states- Palestine side by side with Israel.