September 5, 2006

Israel Not Expanding Settlements, Just "Thickening" Them

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced plans to expand one of the largest illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank. The 690 new houses will be built in Maale Adumim and Betar Illit.
The Construction and Housing Ministry published advertisements on Monday seeking construction proposals for the largest settlement activity undertaken by this government. Israel has also promised President Bush that it will pull down more than 20 illegal outposts created since March 2001, but has not done so.
Apparently, there was a tiny bit of criticism from the US side.
Stewart Tuttle, the spokesman for the American Embassy in Israel, said Monday that “in general it’s a principle of the road map — a foundation to reach peace in the region — that Israel not only remove illegal outposts, but also not expand settlements in the West Bank.”

But such criticism has had little effect on Israeli policy in the past, and is not expected to matter in this case. In general, Israel says it is not “expanding” settlements, but “thickening” them within existing built-up areas.

A former United States ambassador here, Daniel C. Kurtzer, tried to get Israel to agree with the United States on mapping the existing built-up areas of settlements in order to make it clear when settlements were being expanded. But Israel — which has detailed satellite maps of nearly every building in the West Bank — regularly refused.
This map from the BBC details the geographic area that comprises the illegal settlements in and around the West Bank:

Meanwhile, American politicians will be falling over each other trying to improve their pro-Israel image after some received low scores in a Haaretz study of potential US presidential candidates. The first part of the project, entitled "The Israel Factor", ranks American politicians likely to run for the highest office on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the "worst for Israel" and 10 being "the best for Israel." Of course, nobody has a perfect score, presumably to encourage such politicians to make more of an effort to support anything in favor of Israel. But we do have some high scorers, and they are:
1. Rudy Giuliani (8.75)- "The former New York mayor returned a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince after 9/11 following his comments on Israel."
3. John McCain (7.63)- "The Arizona Senator believes America must give Israel whatever equipment and technology it needs for defense."
3. Hillary Clinton(7.63)- "The Senator for New York and former First Lady supports moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
It seems like just when you think there couldn't possibly be another president who is more friendly to Israel, another candidate comes along just to prove you wrong. You can find the full list with more details here.

More on settlements:

What is a settlement and why is it illegal?

The establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake 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 the settlements leads to the violation of the rights of the 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.
[source: B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories]

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