By James J. Zogby | 8 October 2016
LOBE LOG — I was both understanding of and puzzled by the Obama administration’s reaction to Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction in occupied Palestinian lands.
It was just a few weeks ago that the White House signed a new 10-year agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committing a total of $38 billion in military assistance to Israel. In announcing the deal, President Obama noted that this is the most significant support package ever offered to Israel, demonstrating his unparalleled commitment to that state’s security. Shortly thereafter, Obama, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, cautioned Israel that it “cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”
And so it was like a slap in the face [then], when Netanyahu announced that he was building new settlement units in colonies deep in the West Bank, along with ongoing plans to expand settlements in other sensitive areas of the occupied lands—in Arab areas of Jerusalem, in the heart of Hebron, and around Bethlehem. All of these are clear provocations and when seen in combination make clear Israel’s intention to maintain its control over the West Bank, making impossible the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Netanyahu’s the announcement came just two days before Obama was to travel to Israel to speak at the memorial service for Shimon Peres.
And so, I was not surprised when the reactions from the White House and the State Department were quite harsh. The White House spokesperson noted that every US administration, since 1967, has opposed settlements in the occupied lands and reaffirmed their view that expanding settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem only served to further frustrate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The White House went further by accusing Netanyahu of violating his commitment to the US that he would refrain from any further settlement expansion noting, caustically that “l guess, when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a concern, as well.”
For its part, the State Department spokesperson “strongly condemned [the Israeli] plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank.” He referred to the expansion as being yet “another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation” and added that “Such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community … and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace”. He went further, adding that the Administration was “deeply troubled” that Israel took this action so soon after the signing of the new massive military aid agreement. […]