Israel/Palestine remainders

Only skimmed it, but this looks like a very good piece on the current situation from Tony Karon.

The translated Yediot Ahronot interview with “Boogie” Ya’halon, Vice Prime minister of Israel, is depressing. Here’s the end of it:

Yaalon annoyed his colleagues on the left quite a bit when he made a comparison between outposts in the territories and Kibbutz Lehavot-Haviva in the Hefer Valley. He makes no retraction, and scornfully rejects Talia Sasson’s report (“a report born in sin”).

Q. Your comparison is problematic. Lehavot-Haviva is within the consensus. The settlements are a controversial enterprise.

“Lehavot-Haviva was founded when the state was established without a master plan. Does that make it an illegal settlement? The State of Israel built the outposts in Judea and Samaria-the Housing Ministry, the Jewish Agency Settlement Department, the Israel Electric Corporation, the Public Works Department. And this is the sin, when they claim that they are illegal.

“Tear down the homes in the Yovel neighborhood in Eli or in a new settlement? What are we talking about? What goes for them goes for Lehavot-Haviva, too. Let us not become confused.” […]

This is a perfect illustration of what separates the current far-right government of Israel from, well, everyone else. I don’t claim to be an expert on Israeli urban planning, but the basic background is this: the “settlements” that we’ve all heard so much about are areas settled by Israeli civilians in the occupied territories (primarily the West Bank and East Jerusalem). Almost every independent observer holds these to be illegal under international law, because they go beyond Israel’s internationally recognized 1948 borders (the Green Line). The Israeli far right basically believes that the Green Line is null and void as a legitimate border and that the government can settle people pretty much wherever it wants within these areas.

Lehavot-Haviva, on the other hand, is a kibbutz that sits on the Israeli side of the Green Line, founded in the early 1950s. There is nothing problematic from an international law perspective about Israel building towns within its internationally recognized borders, of course. But Lehavot-Haviva, as I understand it, was technically illegal too – but under Israeli law, because it was settled before any municipal plan had been approved for it. So it’s a convenient example for ultranationalist politicians who want to claim that settlements in the West Bank are no less acceptable than settlements within Israel itself. The far right thinks it can get away with doubling down on this extremist position, essentially claiming that Israel doesn’t need to comply with international law concerning its borders and that only Israeli law applies when determining the legality of settlements.  The smackdown the Netanyahu government was dealt this week, I hope, will start taking the legitimacy of this position down a few pegs with the Israeli public. But I fear that the opposite is just as likely to happen.

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