Once again, Israel has been largely criticised by the international community for issuing a tender for 450 new settlement units in the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territories. This apparent political gesture in favour of the Likud Party campaign is set in the context of the incoming Knesset elections on the 17th of March, 2015. On Friday the 30th of January both the US and the UK categorically condemned the decision  –  which threatens both the peace process and ultimately any hope of a two-state solution.

UK Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said:

‘The UK’s position on Israeli settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law. We urge the Government of Israel to reverse this decision. It is important to focus on steps that are conducive to peace’.

According to the anti-colonial Terrestrial Jerusalem group and Peace Now, the development project is planning on building 156 settlements in Elkana, 114 in Adam, 102 in Kiryat Arba and 78 in Alfei Menashe.[1]

A Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official, Wassel Abu Yusef, told Agence France-Presse (AFP): ‘What the Israelis announced is part of a wider war… against the Palestinian people’, adding: ‘This is a war crime which should push the settlement issue to the International Criminal Court’. This follows Palestine leader, Mahmoud Abbas’, recent signature of the Rome Statute in an application to challenge the Israeli government  at the International Criminal Court, for crimes committed during the bloody two-month war last summer.

Israel’s counterplea was to withhold the transfer of $127 million (£83m) of Palestinian tax revenue. It is without saying that these payments are vital for a financially unstable Palestinian Authority; representing more than two-thirds of its revenue it was due to cover more than 150,000 civil servants’ salaries.[2]

This all adds to the international tension, in a week where Benjamin Netanyahu went behind President Obama’s back, addressing the US Congress on the topic of the Iranian nuclear programme; a speech that clearly supported the Republican campaign Obama had vehemently challenged. This has visibly shaken Israel’s position in the White House and potentially opens the door for yet another diplomatic crisis.

 

Sources:

1- http://www.lepoint.fr/monde/en-pleine-campagne-electorale-israel-poursuit-la-colonisation-30-01-2015-1901008_24.php

2- http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2015/01/30/israel-va-construire-de-nouvelles-colonies_1191962