BIDEN CONDEMNS ISRAELI DEFIANCE AND SETTLEMENT EXPANSION
Shortly after Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival to Israel on Monday, the Israeli Ministry of Interior announced its expansion of settlement plans of another 100 housing units in the West Bank and 1,600 in East Jerusalem. These announcements were made at a time when the highest-ranking official thus far of the Obama Administration was to visit the region in an attempt to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which have been put on hold for the past 14 months.
In a strongly worded statement, Mr. Biden went on to say, “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem”…“The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.” The international community unanimously condemned the callous action taken by the Israeli government on the brink of the proximity talks as well.
In an effort to reconcile, the Israeli government and specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized and assured Mr. Biden that the announcements weren’t meant to coincide with his visit or the U.S. brokered peace talks, but rather were part of a procedural stage, and that construction would not commence for another several years.
Regardless of the efforts of Israeli officials to equally verbalize their condemnation of the announcements, the government’s agenda remains disturbingly transparent in that even though construction would not begin for another two or three years, tangible plans to expand into the occupied territories have already been initiated.
The 1,600 housing units to be built in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to be the capital of their future state, are part of a larger blueprint of 50,000; 20,000 are in advanced stages of planning and implementation. All are settlements beyond the Green Line, and into the occupied territories, which is illegal in accordance to international laws.
The incident involving the vice-president points to the larger question: how serious is the government of Israel in adhering to long-term peace with the Palestinians after the talks and handshakes have taken place, and the treaties have been signed? Whether this incident was a public relations mishap or a signal to the Administration that Israel will continue to move forward unilaterally without consideration for the peace process is beside the point. The message was heard loud and clear by the international community.
It is now time for all those who wish to see an enduring peace in the Middle East to work towards holding all parties responsible. We as Americans must help facilitate an environment that will be conducive to peace. That is why on April 14 th, MPAC and J Street will come together at Georgetown University to address how Jewish and Muslim Americans can work towards building that constituency.
Click here to view map of Palestinian loss of land from 1946-2007.