Clinton betrays Palestinians on settlements —surprise!

Arab and Palestinian leaders reacted angrily after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Oct. 31 departed from her administration’s insistence that Israel halt settlement growth, instead applauding Tel Aviv’s “restraint on the policy of settlements.” Palestinians have refused to return to negotiations with Israel until it fulfills committments to halt de facto expansion of its borders into occupied territory—a stance President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated from Abu Dhabi. In Morocco, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa denied the that negotiations could resume without a freeze in settlement construction.

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Clinton said, “What the prime minister has offered in specifics of restraint on the policy of settlements…is unprecedented in the context of prior-to negotiations.”

“There are always demands made in any negotiation that are not going to be fully realized,” she added. “Negotiation by its very definition is a process of trying to meet the other’s needs while protecting your core interests, and on settlements there’s never been a pre-condition.”

Clinton insisted that settlements have “always been an issue within the negotiations,” agreeing with Netanyahu that a freeze has never preceded talks. “What the prime minister is saying is historically accurate.”

In a slight concession, she offered: “We hope that we’ll be able to move into the negotiations where all the issues that President [Barack] Obama mentioned in his speech at the United Nations will be on the table for the parties to begin to resolve.”

During remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York in late September, Barack Obama reiterated that the US rejects “the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” (Ma’an News Agency, AFP, Nov. 1)

Clinton’s comments were in contrast to the previous stance of the Obama administration, which has pressured Israel to halt all settlement construction. In May, after Obama’s first meeting with Netanyahu, Clinton said the US “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.”

Netanyahu has remained intransigent, insisting that the nearly 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could not be expected to stop building as their communities expanded. He has proposed limiting construction to about 3,000 homes that have been approved already by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank—but has not considered any halt in East Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Presidenty Abbas, said: “The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel’s intransigence and America’s back-pedalling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon.” (London Times, Nov. 2)

See our last post on Israel/Palestine.

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  1. New Yorkers join worldwide protests to free Palestinian activist
    From Adalah-NY, Oct. 17:

    On Saturday forty New York human rights advocates rallied on a cold fall day at the Madison Avenue jewelry store of Israeli settlement mogul Lev Leviev to demand that Israel release jailed Palestinian boycott activist Mohammad Othman. Othman, held without charges and in solitary confinement since September 22, is from Jayyous, a West Bank village where Leviev’s company Leader is building the Israeli settlement of Zufim. The protesters also called for an end to Israel’s wave of arrests of Palestinian activists from Bil’in, another West Bank village campaigning against the construction of settlement homes by another Leviev company, Africa-Israel.

    Andrew Kadi of Adalah-NY commented, “Israel’s arrest of Mohammad Othman and residents of Bil’in simply affirms the need for a global movement of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), similar to the movement against apartheid South Africa, to hold Israel accountable, and pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights.”

    Mohammad Othman is believed to be the first person to be arrested by Israel specifically for advocating for the growing international movement to boycott companies, including Leviev’s, that support Israeli human rights abuses. The New York protest was one of fourteen events held worldwide on October 16th and 17th calling for Mohammad Othman’s immediate release.

    Hundreds of Madison Avenue shoppers took home a cartoon flyer “Jailed for an Idea” that depicts Othman’s detention, and Israel’s efforts to crush the protest campaigns in the villages of Bil’in and Jayyous against Leviev’s settlements. The protesters chanted, “Jayyous and Bil’in will not bow, Free Mohammad Othman now,” and “Boycotting Israel is no crime, Leviev should be doing time.” With a guitar accompaniment, the protesters sang songs calling for the boycott of Leviev and Israel, including an updated version of the civil rights classic, “Which Side are You On,” and “Don’t Buy Israeli” to the tune of Hava Nagila.

    Othman was detained as he crossed the Allenby bridge from Jordan, returning home to the West Bank from a trip to Norway. Othman’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the growing international movement for BDS against Israel contributed to the Norwegian government’s recent decision to divest from its pension funding holdings in Elbit Systems. Norway has also been asked by a coalition of eleven organizations and the villages of Jayyous and Bil’in to divest from Leviev’s company Africa-Israel.

    The villages of Jayyous and Bil’in have both been targeted with arrests and repression due to their multi-year nonviolent protest campaigns. Twenty-eight Bil’in activists have been arrested by Israel since June when Bil’in’s lawsuit against settlement construction on village land was heard in Canadian court. Just weeks after he testified in Canada, Bil’in activist Mohammed Khatib was jailed by Israeli forces for 15 days and then released on bail. Bil’in protester Adeeb Abu Rahme and seventeen others are still being held in Israeli jails, and Bil’in protest organizer Abdullah Abu Rahme is “wanted” by the Israeli army for his nonviolent organizing.

    The protest was 14th held in front of Leviev’s New York store since it opened in November, 2007. Leviev’s company Africa-Israel is currently reeling from a financial crisis. Additionally, the international campaign to boycott Leviev due to his settlement construction and involvement in abusive business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia has achieved a string of successes. UNICEF, Oxfam, The British Government and major Hollywood stars have all distanced themselves from Leviev. The investment firm BlackRock and pension giant TIAA-CREF both also recently sold off their shares of Leviev’s company Africa-Israel, though both denied they did so due to his settlement construction.

    See our last posts on Jayyous, Bil’in and Leviev.

  2. …and the small print taketh away
    From a Nov. 26 New York Times story, “Half-Truths Dim Chances for Renewing Mideast Talks,” calling out the fiction of an Israeli “settlement freeze”:

    The 10-month settlement freeze excludes more than 2,500 housing units being built or recently authorized. The moratorium allows a limited number of schools, synagogues and community centers, the kind of “natural growth” banned by the dormant 2003 “road map” for peace, agreed to by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

    In other words, although this represents a painful political concession by the Israeli government and is causing it internal trouble, there will never be a moment in the coming months when construction will stop in West Bank settlements.

    And Israeli building in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital, will be unaffected.

    As for the Palestinians’ claim to have successfully ended violence, the Israeli military begs to differ. Yes, its officers say, the Palestinian forces are better trained than in the past, and yes, they have worked seriously in their new roles. But without nightly Israeli raids into Palestinian cities, the violence would never have stopped.

    “Last night we carried out between 15 and 20 actions,” a top Israeli commander said of the West Bank raids, in a recent interview under military rules of anonymity. “That was a fairly typical night. It’s like throwing a blanket on a fire. If we stop for a minute, we will go backwards very quickly. We call it cutting the grass.”

    Its a shame the account itself aims for a bogus even-handedness. The Israeli violations are real and quantifiable. The Palestinian violations are hypothetical and ironically turn out to be a justification for Israeli pre-emptive attacks. After a good beginning, we’re back to the usual Orwellian propaganda…