George Mitchell is in Israel/Palestine as the White House’s special envoy, in a visit described as “a final push to revive Middle East peace talks”. The focus remains on Israel’s so –called settlement ‘freeze’, with Mitchell reported as saying that there was still work to be done on the “Israeli-American dispute over construction in the West Bank”. Ahead of his meeting with Mitchell today, Netanyahu has confirmed that there will not be a “complete halt to building” in the settlements, telling a Knesset committee that “a reduction on building in Judea and Samaria will only be for a limited period”.
The ‘freeze’ is the latest warmed-up gimmick to be offered by the international community’s peace process’, though even by the standards of previous efforts such as the ‘Road Map’ and ‘Annapolis’, the settlement freeze is transparently lacking in seriousness. The Israeli government’s definition of a ‘freeze’ excludes: settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem; 2,500 housing units already under construction; and, hundreds of new units just recently announced.
That the ‘freeze’ will last in the region of six to nine months is rather academic, given that it will make no difference to this year’s total settlement housing consolidation compared to previous years. As Ha’aretz pointed out, “instead of construction permits being given gradually throughout the year, the government intends to issue hundreds of permits within a few days, before the official announcement of the “freeze” is made”.
Even the PM’s spokesperson Mark Regev has found it hard to spin what Deputy PM Eli Yishai has called merely a “strategic delay”. The new construction in West Bank colonies ahead of the ‘freeze’ Regev argued was a case of doing something now to “actually make progress possible tomorrow”. MK Nissim Ze’ev, visiting a settlement outpost, felt no need to resort to such contortions, encouraging the settlers that there is “no one in the government who doesn’t want more and more construction throughout Judea and Samaria”, but that owing to tensions with the US, there are currently “limitations”. Continue reading “Peace propaganda and the Israeli consensus”