Israel’s recent announcement of plans to build in the area known as E-1, on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem, are a deliberately provocative move after the UN’s largely symbolic vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, which passed by an overwhelming majority on November 29. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision is none too subtly linked to the upcoming Israeli elections in January.
The new building plans, announced just the day after the UN vote, are for a development that would separate West Bank cities Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The land is considered one of the most sensitive terrortories. Should these plans come to fruition, they would, for all intents and purposes, block any creation of a contiguous Palestinian state, closing the door to a two-state solution.
More than a month before the vote, Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the UN Security Council with “a warning to the world” that “every member state that lends its hand to supporting Palestinian unilateralism at the UN will be responsible for the grave consequences that follow.” Israel contends that Palestine’s bid for statehood violates the 1993 Oslo Accords, which require direct negotiations with Israel before the formation of any Palestinian state.
It is within this context that Israel’s extreme response to such a relatively meaningless UN vote (which gives Palestine no vote in any international body) is calculated, manipulative, and (no pun intended) deconstructive.
Analysts say Netanyahu needs to take an even tougher stance on Palestine, to avoid voters from moving from his right wing Likud party to the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party. The Israeli Prime Minister certainly wouldn’t be the first politician in history to take a conscious, unproductive international stance when domestic elections are approaching. That said, given Israel’s particular placement in the global arena, and proclivity to react violently whenever it feels mildly threatened (a feeling any Palestinian response to the settlement announcement will surely inspire) it must be asked – at what cost?
After already isolating itself with extreme acts of aggression against an impoverished neighbor, it is at this point only in Netanyahu’s interest to further the dog that bit him. The UN’s vote to recognize Palestine was an admonishing 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. Most of Europe has denounced Israel’s recent move, and even the U.S. has taken a tougher stance on the E-1 construction. On Monday, Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their countries in protest of the announced settlements.
Netanyahu has positioned Israel as a nation the world has, once again, turned its back on. This political scheme is nothing but a disservice to Jewish heritage and history, and demeans the memory of the dead.