Originally published in Tikkun Daily
Israel has appropriated nearly 1,000 acres of private, Palestinian land for settlement construction near Bethlehem, its largest West Bank land grab in 30 years, an unprecedented move which right-wing, single-state advocates in Israel have been advancing.
The appropriation's original motivation, set in motion in June, was revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. Now, the land has been designated for a major settlement of up to 1,000 housing units, a move Palestinian officials and peace groups fear could ignite tensions still bubbling beneath the surface after the conflict in Gaza.
Palestinian owners of the land, which includes olive groves used by local farmers, have been given 45 days to appeal. However, history shows that such appeals rarely have any efficacy, and that the move will likely be carried out unless there is political intervention within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government.
Peace Now, a staunch critic of Israel's settlement policy, expressed alarm by the move, and noted its implications for the two-state solution:
"As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980s and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem areas.The move appears to be the practical application of Netanyahu's statement in July, in which he said that Israel would never give up control of the West Bank as rockets were falling from Gaza and Israel's bombing campaign was in full swing:
"Peace Now views this declaration as proof that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not aspire for a new 'Diplomatic Horizon,' but rather he continues to put obstacles to the two-state vision and promote a one-state solution.
"By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs (Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas) and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violence delivers Israeli concessions while non-violence results in settlement expansion."
“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan."Indeed, that statement came against the backdrop of an increasing number of right-wing politicians in Israel expressing support for a one-state solution.
Now, Israel has appropriated the largest plot of land for settlement construction in 30 years, a move that further highlights the fact that formation of a separate, Palestinian state is becoming increasingly impossible.
Unless an outside player, such as the United States, convinces Israel to step away from its settlement enterprise and occupation, the inevitable consequence will be the death of the two-state ideal.
If it's not dead already.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.