ISRAEL’S decision to legalise three illegal settlements should surprise no one. It is in keeping with its long-term goal of holding on to the occupied territories at all cost and grabbing as much of Palestinian land as possible. The decision to ‘legalise’ the three illegal settlements conveys an impression that the existing 120 ‘official settlements’ are legal. Actually, all settlements are illegal because they have been built in violation of the existing laws of war and a number of UN resolutions, besides the many international treaties to which Israel is party. These include UN resolutions 242 and 338, the 1978-79 Camp David accords and the 1993 Declaration of Principles. Israel, however, has violated all UN resolutions and reneged on the Camp David accords and the DoP.
The decision is indicative of Israel’s hauteur: it came in response to Mahmoud Abbas’s letter, in which the Palestinian president deplored the collapse of the peace process and demanded a settlement freeze. As a Palestinian spokesman said, the Israeli decision was expected, for legalising the settlements was the Likud government’s answer to Mr Abbas’s peace plea. The move was denounced by peace activists, and by Denmark, the current president of the European Union. However, an Israel that repeatedly defies the United States, its patron saint, is not going to attach importance to what powerless breeds say. The government that should take note of Israel’s decision is in Washington, but to expect that the Democratic administration would annoy the powerful Israel lobby in an election year is unrealistic. In his speech to the Muslim world from Cairo in June 2009, President Barack Obama had called for a halt to settlements. This has had no effect on Benjamin Netanyahu, for the hardline Israeli prime minister knows Congress and the American media are in his pocket.