ISRAEL’S Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has ordered the termination of all non-security related coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA), in response to the UN Security Council adoption of a resolution demanding Israel end all settlement building activity.
The Jerusalem Post cited sources from Israel’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday saying that Lieberman gave the order to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) – the agency responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli news website Arutz Sheva reported that Lieberman ‘forbade’ senior Israeli army officials from contacting PA representatives. Despite the US government under Barack Obama having routinely condemned Israel’s settlement expansions, US officials have yet to take any concrete action to end settlement building and, instead, ‘inadvertently’ encouraged the enterprise through consistent inaction over Israel’s violation of international law, and continued support of the Israeli government through inflated military aid packages.
The number of settlers living in the occupied West Bank has increased from 281,100 in 2008 to 385,900 in 2015, excluding those residing in occupied East Jerusalem. The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) estimates that between 500,000 and 600,000 Israeli settlers currently reside in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.
Meanwhile, plans for some 3,000 settler units have been advanced since the start of 2016, according to Israeli settlements watchdog Peace Now, including hundreds of existing units that were ‘retroactively legalised’ after formerly being considered illegal under Israeli domestic law.
The Israeli leadership has reacted with outrage and defiance since the UNSC approved a resolution, which states that settlements have ‘no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law,’ and calling on the nations of the world ‘to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.’
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel ‘would not abide by the terms’ of the ‘shameful anti-Israel resolution,’ and reportedly summoned the ambassadors of the UN Security Council member states to personally reprimand each of them on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett again called for the annexation of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim as well as all of Area C in the West Bank – more than 60 per cent of the territory currently under full Israeli military and civil control.
Maale Adumim, located just seven kilometres east of Jerusalem, is the third largest settlement in population size, which many Israelis consider to be an Israeli city that would remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement reached with Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.
Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, claiming it is a strategic manoeuvre to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state by changing the facts on the ground, while members of Israel’s parliament have repeatedly come forward with their support for annexing Area C.
A recent report by human rights group B’Tselem argued that under the guise of a ‘temporary military occupation,’ Israel has been ‘using the land as its own: robbing land, exploiting the area’s natural resources for its own benefit and establishing permanent settlements,’ estimating that Israel has dispossessed Palestinians from some 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of lands in the occupied Palestinian territory over the years.
There is no doubt that when Trump begins his term as president on January 20 2017, and transfers the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this will act like a signal to the Netanyahu government to make its big push, using its armed forces and armed settlers, to grab parts of the West Bank and turn them into a part of Israel, driving out Palestinians who have lived there for generations.
Such a rapacious action will be supported by the political heirs of the Balfour Declaration, the May government, but must be opposed by the UK working class and trade unions, with mass demonstrations, political strike actions, and a boycott to demand the establishment of the Palestinian state, and the defeat of Zionism and imperialism.