“The ‘civilized’ world’s silence is more deafening than the explosions covering the city like a shroud of death and terror.”
– Vittorio Arrigoni on the world’s silence of Israel’s inhumane war crimes during Operation Cast Lead
More than 700 letters drafted by Jewish rabbis, cantors, and rabbinical students around the world express fears the E-1 plans will be ‘final blow to a peaceful solution’ and also voice concern that it ‘damages the critical relationship between Israel and the United States.
Haaretz – A group of American rabbinical students studying in Israel delivered a stack of over 700 letters to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on Monday morning. Signed by rabbis, cantors, as well as rabbinical and cantorial students from around the world, the letter was written in protest of Israel’s recently announced plans to expand construction in the E-1 area of the West Bank.
The letter, a joint initiative undertaken by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, J Street, and Americans for Peace Now, is an attempt to inform Netanyahu of concern over settlement expansion among Jewish spiritual leaders outside Israel.
The letter affirmed the leaders’ commitment to Israel, stating that “all of us believe that the ultimate safety and security of Israel as a Jewish state will depend on reaching a peace agreement that also allows Palestinians to live safely and securely in their own state,” read the letter.
“We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution. If Israel builds in E1, it will cut East Jerusalem off from its West Bank surroundings and effectively bifurcate the West Bank. In doing so, E1 will literally represent an obstacle to a two-state solution,” continued the petition.
The students, joined by J Street activists in Israel, were met with confusion from the security officials at the Prime Minister’s Office, who did not know exactly how to handle the stack of letters. Eventually the letters were accepted, and promises to pass them along were made.
The effort to collect signatures from Jewish clergy started about two weeks ago, according to Yael Patir, the director of Israel programs for J Street. “We waited to achieve a critical mass before sending the letter,” says Patir, “as every attempt to get a meeting with someone inside the office failed.”
Patir pointed out that while the ultimate goal is to reach Netanyahu himself, copies of the letter were simultaneously being delivered to the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. and the White House, to make the U.S. government aware of the effort as well. The protest letter also mentions the connection between Israel and the U.S. “As American rabbis and cantors, we also fear that construction in E1 damages the critical relationship between Israel and the United States.”
The rabbinical students, studying at various institutions in the United States and in Israel – and some of whom are participants in RHR-NA’s year-in-Israel program – were enthusiastic about the effort. “These are values I believe in, Jewish values,” said Kerry Chaplin, from Los Angeles, when asked why she became involved with Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, and specifically this project. Chaplin is spending the year studying at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
After she delivered the letters, Marisa James, a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia , said “It makes me happy they accepted the letter. God willing it will get to someone who will read it and pass it along.”
IMEMC – Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated that he is willing to continue to cooperate with the United States and the Obama Administration to achieve a peace agreement with Israel based on the two-state solution.
The statements of Abbas came on Tuesday evening during a meeting, in Jordan, with the visiting U.S. Middle East Envoy, David Hale, the Palestine News Network (PNN) has reported.
Hale told Abbas that the United States is committed to the two-state solution, and will continue its efforts to reach this goal, and stressed on the importance of the resumption of peace negotiations between Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
Abbas said that “he appreciates the stances of the U.S. Administration as it considers peace in the Middle East as a top priority”, PNN reported.
The Abbas-Hale meeting was attended by member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Dr. Saeb Erekat, and official presidency spokesperson Nabil Abu Rodeina.
The meeting took place while the U.S. and Israel continue their financial sanctions on the P.A. for heading to the United Nations, and for managing to upgrade the status of Palestine at the General Assembly to a nonmember state.
Tel Aviv and Washington said that the state of Palestine can only be achieved through direct peace talks between Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
The U.S. and Tel Aviv also rejected a decision made by President Abbas Sunday ordering the Palestinian Authority to start issuing Palestinian Passports, ID Cards, Postage Stamps and License Plates carrying “State Of Palestine”, instead of the Palestinian Authority.
U.S. State Department Spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, stated that, until peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the United States will not refer to the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) as the state of Palestine.
IMEMC – The Israeli government approved in 2012 tenders for the construction of 2386 settlements in occupied Jerusalem, compared to 772 units approved in 2011 and 256 in 2010, Israeli human rights group Ir Amim reported. Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that there are clear indications that the government of Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, intends to construct the new homes for Jewish settlers, especially since the Israel’s Regional Construction and Planning Committee approved all new decisions to construct these units.
Ir Amin said that the Israeli government approved in 2012 the future construction of 6932 units for settlers, while 1772 units were approved in 2011 and 569 in 2010.
Most of the approved constructions are for the expansion of the illegal settlements of Gilo, Har Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim), and Givat Hamatos, south of occupied Jerusalem, in addition to Ramat Shlomo and Pisgat Ze’ev, north of the occupied city.
The statistics excluded construction plans for thousands of units in the so-called E1 area, between Maale Adumim settlement block and occupied East Jerusalem.
The report also stated that in 2008, the Israeli government that was headed by Ehud Olmert, and following the failure of the Annapolis peace summit, issued tenders for the construction of 1931 units, while 1021 units were approved in 2009.
Haaretz said that the American “pressure on Israel” regarding its settlement activities increased after Israel announced the construction of 1600 units in Ramat Shlomo illegal settlement while U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, was visiting the area holding talks with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, trying to convince them to resume direct peace talks.
Israel then made use of the fact that the United States was engaged in election campaigns last year, and stepped-up its illegal settlement activities.
Haaretz said that despite the fact that Israel claims that most of its settlement tenders and approvals made in 2012 came to punish the Abbas for heading to the UN, the simple fact is that such activities require time and lengthy legal measures.
It is worth mentioning that the Jerusalem City Council approved, Wednesday, the construction of six hotels (1000 rooms) in Givat Hamatos, south of occupied Jerusalem.
Yehudit Oppenheimer, Executive Director of Ir Amim, told Haaretz that what is happening is an attempt to change the structure and geography of Jerusalem without even presenting the issue to the Israeli public.
Oppenheimer added that what Israel is trying to achieve a “greater Jerusalem” that includes the settlement blocs of Maale Adumim, Gush Ezion, while imprisoning large Palestinian communities, suffocated by settlements.
A cartoon I came across after Palestine’s successful statehood bid in the UN.
Palestine may complain to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the United Nations Security Council does not take action over Israeli settlement plans, which are illegal under international law, stated Mahmoud Abbas’s political adviser, Nimr Hammad.
Hammad said that several European countries were lobbying the United States to take a serious position against Israeli settlements at the 15-member council.
On Wednesday, the US was the only council member that did not make a statement opposing Israeli plans to expand Jewish settlements around Jerusalem.
The other 14 countries on the council issued statements as a “Plan B” after it was clear the US would veto a resolution on the issue, India’s UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said.
Hammad said if the UN Security Council did not take action against Israeli settlements, Palestine would consider complaining to the International Criminal Court, an option made available by Palestine’s admission as a non-member state to the UN in November.
The Security Council resumed talks on a resolution condemning settlements after Israel said last month it would build 3,000 more homes in the West Bank including East Jerusalem after Palestine’s succesful bid at the UN, which deeply angered Israel. Israel has since announced plans to build thousands of more units.
Diplomats have stated that it has become quite apparent that the United States is unwilling to support a resolution.
Ma’an News – In a rare move on Wednesday, all but one of the 15 members of the UN Security Council made statements at the United Nations opposing Israeli plans to expand Jewish settlements around Jerusalem after the United States repeatedly blocked attempts to take stronger action.
India’s UN ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, described the four separate statements — made by the eight council members from the Non-Aligned Movement, the four European members, Russia and China — as a “Plan B” after it was clear the United States, was likely to veto a legally binding resolution on the issue.
“Consultations (on a resolution) were held amongst the members of the council and an attempt was made … (to see) if the 15th member could be accommodated,” said Puri, referring to the United States.
“But when we came to the conclusion that that was not likely to happen … it was felt that Plan B – which is what this is essentially – was for members of the council to come out individually and in groupings to make statements,” he said.
All the statements were made at UN headquarters after a Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East. While the United States has also condemned Israel’s plans, it did not make a statement at the United Nations.
The United States — traditionally Israel’s protector on the Security Council — blocked a resolution in February last year condemning Israeli settlements. Any of the five permanent members of the council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — can veto a resolution.
When asked about the planned statements by Security Council members at the United Nations, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that “each country ought to make its own representations … and that’s the way we’ve proceeded.”
The Security Council resumed talks on a resolution condemning settlements after Israel said last month it would build 3,000 more homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas Palestinians want for a future state, along with Gaza.
But it became apparent that the United States was unwilling to support a resolution, diplomats said.
Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli announcement came a day after the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians’ status at the world body to “non-member state” – a de facto UN recognition of statehood.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday his government would press ahead with expanding Jewish settlements around Jerusalem, despite Western criticism.
Speaking in Washington, Nuland said the United States said it was “deeply disappointed” by the plan and said it put the goal of a two-state solution at risk.”
The current European members of the Security Council — permanent members Britain and France, as well as Germany and Portugal — said Israel’s announcement of an acceleration of settlement construction was “undermining faith in its willingness to negotiate.”
Diplomats made clear that the issuance of the statements were targeted as much at the United States as they were at Israel and the Palestinians for a lack of progress towards a peace plan.
“We’re making clear to both parties and the US that the window of opportunity (for peace) is closing,” said a senior Western diplomat.
The Non-Aligned Movement caucus of the Security Council — Togo, South Africa, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Guatemala, Colombia and Azerbaijan — expressed grave concern at the “continuing illegal Israeli settlement activities,” which it said breached international humanitarian law.
Russia and China also separately said they were concerned by the settlement plans. All the statements on the issue were made outside the Security Council on Wednesday.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council on Wednesday that settlement construction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, violated international law.
“If implemented, these plans would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution,” Feltman said. “We strongly urge the Israeli government to heed the wide international calls to rescind these plans.”
Israeli analysts see the settlement drive as an effort by Netanyahu to enhance support for his right-wing Likud party against other hawkish rivals in a Jan. 22 parliamentary election he is expected to win.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor questioned why the Security Council should single out the settlements’ dispute all the other events going on in the Middle East this week, including a bombing in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria and the explosion of a Hezbollah warehouse in Lebanon.