Monday, May 30, 2011

Likud MK Calls for Unrestricted Settlement Building in West Bank

Reporting on Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with his Likud party, the Jerusalem Post notes that long-time "Greater Israel" proponent - and current minister-without-portfolio - Benny Begin (son of former PM - and Irgun terrorist - Menachem Begin, the godfather of the West Bank settlement movement) is now calling for unrestricted Israeli settlement construction in "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank).  His reasoning: there's no chance of negotiations with the Palestinians, so . . . let's go for it. 

Begin and pals probably sense, of course, that those Congressional Republicans who espouse the Christian Zionist notion that "God gave" all that land to the Jews anyway would not stand in his way.  (Indeed, the report notes that some of the Likud MKs joked with Netanyahu that he ought to seek the Republican nomination for president.  His response? He's strictly bipartisan in his dealings with Congress.)

The real focus of the meeting, however, was a subject that occasioned no joking whatsoever: the upcoming September meeting of the UN General Assembly, where the Palestinian leadership hopes for a vote recognizing a Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria."  Netanyahu believes that forming a unity government - by including the Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni - would fortify Israel against what's being referred to as the approaching "tsunami."  (Perhaps predictably, another Likud MK - the same man whose recent op-ed in the NY Times just prior to Obama's "Arab Spring" speech called for the outright annexation of the entire West Bank by Israel - recommended inviting an even harder-line, farther rightist party into the governing coalition.)

Underlying all the jocularity and political engineering is the growing realization among the Israeli leadership that even as Israel's regional isolation is growing (a development accentuated by Egypt's sharp turn away from Israel, reflected most recently in its opening of the Rafah crossing connecting Gaza with Egypt), Israel is facing the threat of international isolation in the wake of a UN vote that (as Netanyahu himself now seems to have admitted) will surely go against Israel's wishes by affording the Palestinians  internationally sanctioned legitimacy.  (It's ironic that Netanyahu chose to mock the UN General Assembly as a body that would pass a "flat earth" resolution; it was the UN General Assembly's 1947 vote in favor of partitioning mandate Palestine that gave international legitimacy to the creation of a Jewish state.)

For decades, of course, the US has had Israel's back in the UN's Security Council, vetoing virtually every resolution there that might at all have been construed as damaging to Israel's interests - even when a resolution affirmed already stated and accepted US policy (as happened in February, when the US vetoed a UNSC resolution affirming the illegality of Israel's West Bank settlements). UNSC resolutions, of course, are binding; those of the UNGA are not.  Nonetheless, the September UNGA vote promises to wreak even more havoc on Israel's image, which remains muddied by its devastation of Gaza in 2008-2009 and its later, lethal interception of a flotilla of aid-bearing ships headed to Gaza.  (That action left 9 dead, including an American citizen - over whose death Congress uttered nary a squawk.  By the way, by the end of June another flotilla - more than 1000 people, from more than 100 countries - will be en route from Turkey, whose leaders have served notice to Israel that a repeat of that intervention - some would call it a hijacking - would be ill advised.)

That the Israeli leadership seems content to circle the wagons and, in effect, dare the international community to "bring it on" seems anything but enlightened statesmanship.  Those Americans who consider themselves true friends of Israel need to be reminding Messrs. Netanyahu, Begin, et al. of that.

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