Thursday, January 02, 2014

  • Thursday, January 02, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Here is a BBC comedy program that spoofs what the world agrees is Israel's inexorable expansion of settlements:

The reason that people think this is funny is because it appears to be based on what is universally accepted as truth - that Israel keeps building more and more settlements. For decades we have heard that these settlements are endangering a two-state solution because they are grabbing more and more land, and eventually there won't be any land left for Palestinian Arabs to live on.

What is the truth?

Well, just ask Peace Now: From their report on April 19, 2012:

According to reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated this week that the Government will approve the establishment of three settlements (Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim), in the upcoming cabinet meeting on Sunday, April 22. This decision is required in order to legalize the illegal outposts.... If approved next Sunday, it will be the first time since the Shamir Government in 1990 that the Israeli government is deciding on the establishment of new settlements.

That's right. In 23 years, Israel has approved exactly three new settlements.

Since then, no new settlements have been approved. Peace Now also has a report on settlement activity since Bibi was re-elected and not one new settlement is mentioned.

To be sure, within existing settlement boundaries, there have been many new buildings added. The vast majority of this building takes up no additional land whatsoever. And the vast majority of the building also takes place in areas that Israel will continue to control in any possible peace agreement. (Sometimes, a few times a year according to Peace Now, new neighborhoods are approved that expand existing settlements into state land as well, never into privately owned Arab land, and always in Area C, where only about 2% of Palestinian Arabs live to begin with.)

It is true that dozens of illegal outposts have been set up as well, against Israeli law. (Which means, by definition, their existence is not against international law no matter how you interpret the Geneva Conventions.)

Of course, the Netanyahu government has made no secret that it intends to legalize other older settlements. Yet - it hasn't, after being in power for nearly five years.

In 2002, Btselem claimed that 1.7% of area of the West Bank is taken up by settlements plus roads to them. Peace Now put the amount of settlement lands at 1.36% at the time.  However, Saeb Erekat  said that an aerial survey of the area funded by the EU showed that Israeli settlements only took up 1.1% of the land in 2011! (He was actually arguing that since they take up so little space, "Palestine" should be created based on the "1967 lines.")

This is hardly the massive expansion of land that is being portrayed by the media, politicians, and now comedy programs. In real terms, Israel's settlement policy has done very little since before Oslo to imperil any two state solution.

Outside of celebrity scandals, Israel's settlement policy is perhaps the most exaggerated issue in the history of news media.

(h/t Anne)

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