Saturday, 31 December 2016
Friday, 30 December 2016
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Israel for settlement policies that "make two states impossible" on December 28.
By Gregg RomanThe Los Angeles Times
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which describes Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal, should never have passed last week. But the U.S. refused to use its veto power, in part because, as Secretary of State John F. Kerry explained in a speech on Wednesday, the Obama administration believes settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In the outgoing administration's view, extreme criticism is, conversely, necessary to advance the peace process.
This argument is dead wrong. Still, let's examine it.
Although administration officials have been reluctant to explain the precise reasoning behind their last-minute series of attacks on Israel, as near as I can tell it rests on three assumptions.
The first, as Kerry outlined in his speech, is that a freeze on Israeli settlement growth makes it easier for Palestinian negotiators to make painful compromises at the negotiating table. It supposedly does this by easing Palestinian suspicions that Israel either won't make major territorial concessions at the negotiating table, or won't implement these concessions once made.
The main impediment to compromise is Palestinian unwillingness to accept the existence of a Jewish state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put this assumption to the test in November 2009 when he imposed a 10-month moratorium on new housing construction (East Jerusalem excepted) at the urging of the Obama administration.
What happened? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to return to talks until the very end of the moratorium and remained every bit as intransigent as before.
The main impediment to Palestinian compromise is not Palestinian suspicion; it is the fundamental unwillingness of Palestinian leaders across the spectrum to accept the existence of a Jewish state alongside their own.
Some settlement growth makes it easier for Palestinian moderates to build public support for compromise.
What's more, a strong case can be made that some settlement growth actually makes it easier for Palestinian moderates to build public support for compromise by underscoring that a continuation of the status quo is untenable and injurious to Palestinian national aspirations in the long run.
The Obama administration's second assumption is that pressure from the international community or from the United States will bring about this supposedly desirable settlement freeze.
However, by collapsing the distinction between East Jerusalem and bustling Israeli towns just inside the West Bank — which no major Israeli political party will contemplate abandoning — and the remaining settlements, most of which Israelis are willing to give up, this policy does the opposite.
"It is a gift to Bibi Netanyahu, who can now more easily argue to Israelis that the bad relationship with America these last eight years wasn't his fault," notes the writer Jonah Goldberg.
Finally, even if it were true that a settlement freeze would make it easier for Palestinian negotiators to trust Israel and that international pressure would increase the willingness of Israeli leaders to accept such a freeze, these effects would be far overshadowed by the problems created by branding Israeli claims outside the 1949 armistice line illegal and invalid.
Palestinian leaders will have double the trouble compromising now that the UN has endorsed their maximalist demands.
Since Palestinian leaders already have trouble justifying to their people the abandonment of territorial claims to Ma'ale Adumim, the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem, and so forth, they will have double the trouble now that the United States has endorsed these demands. What Palestinian leader can sign away territory to which Washington and the Security Council have declared Israelis have no legitimate claim?
Kerry stated plainly that Israel is to blame for the demise of the two-state process, and that — unless its leaders listen to counsel — Israel will not survive as both a Jewish and a democratic state. Now that the administration's views are crystal clear, pundits should spare us the back and forth on whether its eleventh-hour obsessions are good for peace – no one as smart as Obama or Kerry can possibly believe that it is.
The more interesting question, sure to be the focus of congressional hearings next year, is why the administration used its last few weeks to damage relations with Israel.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum, a research center headquartered in Philadelphia.
Understandably emboldened by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘peace plan’ released on Wednesday 28 Kislev, PA (Palestinian Authority) leader Abu Mazen has announced his willingness to resume diplomatic negotiations with Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during recent years has invited Abu Mazen to Knesset and has also repeatedly stated he would resume talks without any preconditions.
Abu Mazen now announced “the minute the Israeli government agrees to halt a ll settlement activities” he is willing to resume negotiations. The PA leader also stipulates this must be conducted under a specified time frame.
PA officials are also announcing Abu Mazen’s willingness to “completely cooperate with France”, referring to the French-hosted peace conference that is set to begin in Paris five days before US President-elect Donald Trump is to be sworn into office. PM Netanyahu during recent months has informed France Israel does not plan to attend, maintaining an agreement must be reached between the sides in face-to-face talks and not via third-party mediated talks.
Contradicting Kerry is PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who rejects the statements made by Kerry that the PA is prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. He has no such plans. So much for the Obama administration’s final “comprehensive vision”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
[PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]
With the Gregorian year of 2016 winding down, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released the following data on Thursday, 29 Kislev. According to the data, by the year 2065, there will 25 million people living in the State of Israel and the chareidim will compromise 32.1% of the total population and the Arab population will be 19.2%.
There was an addition of 167,000 people in 2016, an increase of 2% as compared to 1% in the past decade. Most of the increase (83%) of the Israeli population is from natural growth and the remainder from migration to Israel. The official number of residents as the year ends is 8.63 million. There were 181,000 babies born in the last year; 24,000 immigrants who made aliyah; 12,000 migrants; 43,000 people died and 7,000 left the country. The CBS adds that by 2040, the population will reach 14.2 million residents and the lowest estimate stands at 12.3 million people.
The average family has 2.5 children today and by 2065; a Jewish non-chareidi family will have an average of 2.9 children while the average chareidi family will number 7 children.
The CBS predicts the birthrate among chareidim will decrease – citing three scenarios from the highest to the lowest birthrates.
- The birthrate by 2036 will be 7.8 children, by 2048 it will be 7.7 children and in 2065, it will continue downward to 7.5 children.
- The birthrate by 2036 will be 6.3 children and continue dropping so that by 2048 it will be 6 and by the year 2065 it will be 5.3 children.
- The birthrate will decrease to 5 by 2036 and drop to 4.3 by 2048 and continue dropping to 3 by the year 2065
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
Some 27,000 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2016, according to estimates by The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, compared to the 31,000 who arrived in 2015. Aliyah from Russia and Brazil rose significantly over the past year, while immigration from France and Ukraine dipped. The data released today is preliminary but offers solid indications of Aliyah trends for the past year. The final statistics will be made available mid-January, as they are every year.
Some 7,000 immigrants arrived in Israel from Russia, which topped the Aliyah chart in 2016, compared to 6,600 who arrived in 2015. Approximately 5,500 immigrants arrived from Ukraine, compared to the 7,221 who came last year. An estimated 5,000 new immigrants came from France, compared to 7,900 in 2015. Aliyah from the United States hit 2,900 immigrants, compared to 3,070 last year. These four leading sources of Aliyah also led the list in 2015 and 2014, although France—which led the chart in recent years—has slipped to third place.
Aliyah from Brazil increased significantly, with the arrival of some 760 new immigrants this year, compared to 497 in 2015. 620 immigrants arrived from Belarus (compared to 600 last year), 650 from the United Kingdom (775), and 272 from South Africa (236).
Immigration to Israel has come to be characterized by youth: approximately 5,150 of the new immigrants were 17 or under, 9,500 were between the ages of 18 and 35, 3,000 were between 36 and 45, 4,600 were between 46 and 65, and just over 3,000 were 66 or older.
Most of the new arrivals have professional backgrounds in industry, construction, and food services (some 5,000 individuals in total), high tech and engineering (2,400), the humanities and social sciences (1,900), medical and paramedical fields (1,150), and accounting and law (1,080).
11% of the immigrants decided to make Tel Aviv their new home, while 10% moved to Jerusalem, 9% to Netanya, 8% to Haifa, 6% to Ashdod, 5% to Bat Yam, 4% to Ra’anana, 3% to Rishon L’Tzion, 3% to Beersheva, and 3% to Ashkelon.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said: “The high numbers of immigrants over the past two years were due, in part, to a series of external factors that have changed or disappeared, at least for the moment. At the same time, despite the downward shift this year, we see that the long-term trends continue and the number of immigrants to Israel, particularly from Western countries, remains high compared to the averages of the past fifteen years.
“This is evidence of the fact that Israel continues to draw Jews from around the world seeking to live lives of meaning and identity. At the same time, the numbers also indicate that the State of Israel must invest further efforts in finding solutions for the swift integration and absorption of the immigrants, with an emphasis on employment, particularly recognition of professional and academic certifications.
“The Jewish Agency will continue its efforts to promote Aliyah and strengthen both Jewish identity and connections to Israel among Diaspora Jewry. Thousands of Jewish young people from around the world came to Israel this year in order to participate in The Jewish Agency’s unique Israel experience programs, including Masa Israel Journey with nearly 12,000 participants, Onward Israel with some 1,600, and Machon Youth Leadership Training with some 430. These numbers are constantly on the rise and they attest to the success of these unique frameworks in drawing dynamic, educated young people to get to know Israel firsthand and strengthening ties within the global Jewish family.”
Minister of Aliyah Landver said: “Over the past year, I returned to the Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption after a one-year absence. I never managed to cease dealing with Aliyah and absorption and so, even during my absence, I continued my unceasing efforts in the realm of Aliyah and absorption. Since my return to the ministry, I am proud to say that we are in the midst of a wave of activity and Aliyah. The special emphasis that I placed on encouraging Aliyah is bearing fruit and we are finishing the year with 27,000 new immigrants. We are strengthening and building new projects in the realms of employing immigrants and encouraging entrepreneurship across the country, with an emphasis on Jerusalem, the Negev, and the Galilee. We have continued to act in order to remove barriers to immigrants’ employment and we reached a particular high in job placements this year. I fought and managed to increase the annual budget for local authorities, to increase activities with young people and students, and I will not give up and will continue to act ceaselessly in the realm of housing, along with our achievements this year.
“Our work in the field of Aliyah and absorption is challenging and extensive, but I believe that when those who deal with Aliyah and absorption do so from the heart, with faith and vision, success is guaranteed. I wish us all that we will continue to place the immigrants at the center of our work, to ease their new lives in Israel by removing barriers, minimizing bureaucracy, and making information more accessible, and of course to continue encouraging immigration to Israel.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
At the annual reception hosted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for spiritual and lay leaders of Christian communities in Israel on Tuesday, Greek Patriarch Theophilos III said: "We take the opportunity of this holiday gathering to express our gratitude to you for the firmness with which you defend the freedoms that lie at the heart of this democracy - especially the freedom of worship....The State of Israel takes pride in the fact that this state was founded on democratic principles in the Middle East and that it guarantees full freedom of worship."
Earlier, Rivlin had spoken of the suffering of the Syrian population and asked his guests to join him in praying for their well-being. Rivlin spoke of the ongoing effort to build good relations between Christians and Jews, saying that Jews, Christians and Muslims alike share many common values. Rivlin added: "United Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and it will remain so. There is no international body with the power to revoke this."
Rivlin also said, "Time and again we have held out our hand in peace and called for direct negotiations without preconditions and without any delay. The decision to take Israel to the UN Security Council was wrong in trying to force preconditions, but also in the way it was done....The Security Council vote was a blow to peace, and it was a blow to trust." )
It's Not the Settlements - Rick Richman (Commentary) original website not accessible at time of sending this email
Immediately after the UN voted last week to vilify Israel, Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security advisor, held a conference call to argue that the Obama administration was motivated by its "grave concerns" about "the continued pace" of Israeli settlement activities.
Rhodes said, "Since 2009, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has increased by more than 100,000."
The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80% of it has been in the settlement blocs "everyone knows" Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement.
The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier translates into less than 1% of the population in the disputed territories over a period of eight years.
The vast majority of Israeli settlement activity has been within settlement blocs that no one can realistically expect Israel to dismantle.
During the Bush administration, the U.S. and Israel agreed on a formula for settlements: building could continue within the boundaries of existing settlements, but not outside them, so that construction would not affect the amount of land available for a Palestinian state, which was more than 90% of the disputed territories.
It was the Obama administration that reneged on that agreement in 2009 and made an issue out of something that had already been resolved.
Kerry's Rage Against Israel – Editorial
John Kerry delivered a marathon speech Wednesday excoriating Israel. It's not for lack of U.S. diplomacy that there is no peace. In 2000 then-President Bill Clinton brought Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David to negotiate a final peace agreement, only to watch Palestinians walk away from an offer that would have granted them a state on nearly all of Gaza and the West Bank. That failure was followed by another Palestinian terror campaign.
Israelis remember that they elected leaders - Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, Ehud Barak in 1999, Ehud Olmert in 2006 - who made repeated peace overtures to the Palestinians, only to be met with violence and rejection. Israelis also remember that Netanyahu ordered a settlement freeze, and that also brought peace no closer.
The lesson is that Jewish settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. If they were, Gaza would be on its way to becoming the Costa Rica of the Mediterranean. The obstacle is Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in any borders. A Secretary of State who wishes to resolve the conflict could have started from that premise, while admonishing the Palestinians that they will never get a state so long as its primary purpose is the destruction of its neighbor.
Kerry’s Rage Against Israel - Wall Street Journal editorial
John Kerry delivered a marathon speech Wednesday excoriating Israel for its settlements policy, and we hear Israeli TV stations dropped the live broadcast after the first half-hour. Who can blame them? If Israelis don’t feel the need to sit through another verbal assault from the soon to be former Secretary of State, it’s because they live in a reality he shows no evidence of comprehending.
Mr. Kerry has made the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace a major goal of his tenure, conducting intensive negotiations for nearly a year until they collapsed in spring 2014. That collapse came after the Palestinian Authority announced the creation of a unity government with Hamas, the terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction. Shortly thereafter, Hamas started a war with Israel from its Gaza stronghold, the third such war since Israel vacated Gaza of all settlements in 2005.
We recite this history to show that it’s not for lack of U.S. diplomacy that there is no peace—and that mishandled diplomacy has a way of encouraging Palestinian violence. In 2000 then-President Bill Clinton brought Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David to negotiate a final peace agreement, only to watch Palestinians walk away from an offer that would have granted them a state on nearly all of Gaza and the West Bank. That failure was followed by another Palestinian terror campaign.
Israelis remember this. They remember that they elected leaders—Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, Ehud Barak in 1999, Ehud Olmert in 2006—who made repeated peace overtures to the Palestinians only to be met with violence and rejection… To read the full story subscribe y
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
Saturday, 24 December 2016
That's the sound of being hit in the stomach when you were unaware the punch was coming. That's just how I feel. We've been betrayed by the country of our birth of which we remain citizens in good standing. We had just learned that President-elect Donald Trump had tweeted against the UN resolution that was to have been proposed by Egypt and had let President Obama know that he was against it...and Egypt had backed down and tabled the resolution, perhaps forever as it was said on the news here.
And then, after Shabbat had already started in Israel (we still had the TV news running as we are not shomer Shabbat), with the Shabbat candles burning, we learned that four other countries--New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal--reintroduced the resolution and the U.S. abstained, breaking all U.S. past policy toward Israel and breaking Obama's promises to allow a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict to come about through the two sides talking to each other across a negotiating table and not in any other entity. Ooof!
Some of us urged our rabbi emeritus to speak extemporaneously about the UN resolution from the bema at this morning's Shabbat service, which he did. No notes, no prep, just speaking from the heart. He is not only a rabbi and a Holocaust survivor, but a Ph.D., a former college professor, author, and an excellent speaker. During his talk while he was speaking about losing 32 members of his family in the Shoah and why, no matter what we like or find fault with in Israel, we must all stand together, an extreme left-leaning couple (we think the only such entity in our Masorti congregation) shouted out against him saying one had to speak out when one disagrees.
Alan was on the bema waiting to lead the musaf service, so I was sitting alone and tears began to form and fall on my cheeks. I couldn't help it. The only other time I cried in synagogue was when a close friend of 46 years died suddenly in the U.S. and Alan dedicated his haftorah to her. First my country disappoints me, no slams me, and then in my congregation in Eretz Yisrael, a socially maladjusted couple shouts down the rabbi when he speaks about what the UN and all the world are doing to Israel and to the Jews. Some people just have no respect. I would have thought it rude to shout down anyone speaking from any podium, but a rabbi speaking from the bema??? The time to discuss your opposing views is after the service is over and privately. Or, ask for a spot at a future service or program to present your case. I am not against free speech and neither is Rabbi Birnbaum. I think most of the rest of the congregation was also in pain from what the UN and America has just done to Israel. They are saying that the Kotel, which is in the disputed part of Jerusalem, does not belong to Israel! The nerve! History (and archeology) disputes all that the UN is trying to pretend is true.
The United Nations, an organization I was taught to revere as a child in school, is nothing more than a body of hateful anti-Semites who need a scapegoat for all that is wrong in this world and, once again so as to be consistent with history, they have chosen the Jews. But watch out world; it only starts with the Jews.
May you find inspiration in Chanukah, which starts tonight, or Christmas, which also starts tonight, and peace in the new year. And please, pray for Israel. Indeed, pray for our world.
From the JTA Dec. 23, 2016 (came after Shabbat here in Netanya):
Press release from AIPAC:
AIPAC is deeply disturbed by the failure of the Obama Administration to exercise its veto to prevent a destructive, one-sided, anti-Israel resolution from being enacted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In the past, this administration and past administrations have rejected this type of biased resolution since it undermines prospects for peace.
It is particularly regrettable, in his last month in office, that the president has taken an action at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Congress and America’s long history of standing with Israel at the United Nations. AIPAC expresses its appreciation to President-elect Trump and the many Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who urged a veto of this resolution.
By adopting this resolution, the United Nations has once again served as an open forum to isolate and delegitimize Israel—America’s lone stable, democratic ally in the Middle East. The Palestinian leadership has refused to return to talks with Israel and has continued to incite violence. Today’s destructive UNSC resolution only rewards this negative strategy and undermines efforts to truly pursue a lasting peace.
The best way to further the peace process with the goal of a two-state solution—which we support—would have been for the international community to do everything in its power to persuade the Palestinians to return to direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions with Israel. Unfortunately, the UNSC today irresponsibly adopted a ruinous resolution that can only make the goal of peace even more elusive.
From the Daily TIP (The Israel Project) Dec. 24, 2016:
In a stunning move, the American delegation to the United Nations abstained from voting on a resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemning Israel for settlement construction, allowing the measure to pass.
This is a reversal of U.S. policy, which has been for decades that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only come through direct negotiations. In 2011, when a similar resolution condemning settlement construction came up for a vote at the UNSC, the U.S. vetoed it. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, in justifying the “no” vote, “Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides. It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations and, if and when they did resume, to return to the Security Council whenever they reach an impasse.” She thought it “unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians." Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly later that year, would “not [come] through statements and resolutions at the U.N.”
The idea that peace can only come through direct negotiations between the two parties was enshrined in the Oslo process. In 1993, then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat wrote to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that “all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.” According to an interim agreement reached between Israel and the PLO in 1995, settlements were defined to be among these permanent status issues. Per this agreement, known as “Oslo II,” “[n]either side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
Democratic lawmakers in the United States blasted the resolution and the American abstention from voting on it. “It is extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the Administration has failed to veto this resolution,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Whatever one’s views are on settlements, the U.N. is the wrong forum to settle these issues.” The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said on Friday that the resolution “does nothing to move forward the shared goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. This resolution is one-sided and unfairly calls out Israel without assigning any blame for the Palestinian role in the current impasse.” Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based terrorist organization backed by Iran, praised the resolution because “it will pave [the] way for isolating and boycotting Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the resolution: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms,” he said. “At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall ‘occupied territory.’”
The Obama administration’s decision to abstain from a United Nations Security Council vote on Israeli settlements on Friday was the subject of intense opposition from lawmakers in the president’s own party, with Democratic leaders warning that the resolution will damage efforts to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said hours before the vote that “the proposed resolution does not bring us any closer to the goal of a two-state solution. Peace must come from direct negotiations between the two parties.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) similarly condemned the resolution on Thursday, saying that the vote “seeks to place responsibility for continued conflict fully on Israel and ignores violence and incitement by Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships. Any workable and long-lasting solution to this conflict must come about through direct, bilateral negotiations, and this resolution undermines that effort.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, added on Thursday that “the UN should stop wasting its time trying to embarrass Israel, and the United States should continue the policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions.”
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said on Friday that the resolution “does nothing to move forward the shared goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. This resolution is one-sided and unfairly calls out Israel without assigning any blame for the Palestinian role in the current impasse.” Cardin emphasized his support for “direct negotiations between the parties” and criticized the speed with which the resolution was pushed to a vote, saying that “by introducing the resolution yesterday and scheduling a vote this week, other members of the Security Council have not had sufficient time to consider the text.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) warned on Thursday that the “resolution would undermine, if not undo, the chances for productive discussions between the two sides,” remarks echoed the following day by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who also called the resolution “unconstructive.” Sen. Sherrod Browncalled (D-Ohio) stressed on Friday that “any lasting peace must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, not imposed by the international community.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) noted that “longstanding U.S. policy has been to stand with Israel against attempts to use the United Nations to internationalize the peace process, and that policy should be maintained.”
“I am concerned that some delegations to the United Nations continue to advance counterproductive resolutions such as the one introduced this week, while they turn a blind eye to international crises that should demand our immediate attention and action, including the conflict in Syria and Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he added
Friday, 23 December 2016
You As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighbourhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition to overlooking the Palestinian building project, the West has clearly been neglecting a crucial difference between the two efforts: while the construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighbourhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.
In this behind-the-scenes endeavour, which does not meet even the most minimum standards required by engineers, architects and housing planners, the Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground.
A quick tour of the areas surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south easily exposes the colossal construction that is taking place there. In most cases, these high-rise buildings are slapped together without licenses or any adequate planning or safety concerns.
An example of massive illegal Palestinian construction near Shufat and Anata, on the northeastern outskirts of Jerusalem.
The Jewish outpost of Amona in the central West Bank, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. In 2006, the High Court of Israel ruled that the outpost is illegal under Israeli law because it lies on private Palestinian land. In 2014, the High Court ordered the government to evacuate and demolish the entire outpost within two years.
In Israel, as Amona demonstrates, no one is above the law.
Yet as the debate in Israel intensifies over the fate of Amona, the Palestinians are making a mockery of laws and building regulations by embarking on massive construction of illegal neighbourhoods and buildings. Apparently, settlements are only a "major obstacle to peace" when they are constructed by Jews.
In recent years and continuing to the present, the Palestinians, with the aid of Western donors for whom only Jewish construction is anathema, are working night and day to create irreversible facts in the form of not just single-family houses, but masses of giant high-rise buildings. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union are behind the Palestinian initiative.
Ironically, this has been taking place even when it means that the Palestinians have been stealing land from our own people.
The Palestinian building is taking place mostly in what is called Area C of the West Bank, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is supposed to be under exclusive Israeli control. The building has also been mushrooming in many neighbourhoods -- even in entire villages -- surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south, leaving the city with only one option: to expand towards the west, thereby building a giant collar of cement effectively to surround and choke off Jerusalem from the Jews.
Recently, entire Arab neighbourhoods with crowded high-rises have shot up around Jerusalem. Only a handful of steps separate some of the buildings, and most lack proper sewage systems. Apartment prices range from $25,000 to $50,000 USD. These are ridiculous prices compared with the real costs of apartments in both Arab and Jewish (legal) neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase a three-room apartment in the city for less than $250,000 USD.
The new neighbourhoods are located in Kufr Akab, Samiramis, Kalandya, Beit Hanina, Shufat, Ras Khamis and Anata in the north of Jerusalem.
In the southern and eastern parts of the city, new neighbourhoods have emerged with noticeable suddenness in Ras Al-Amoud, A-Tur, Al-Zaim, Jabal Mukaber, Um Tuba and Jabal Mukaber. These areas fall within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. However, failing to halt the illegal construction and leaving the city besieged from north, east and south, Jerusalem Municipality officials admit that Israel will have lost the war against illegal Palestinian construction unless immediate action is taken.
Alarmed by the ongoing illegal construction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently took the unprecedented measure of petitioning the High Court to allow the city to demolish 14 illegally built structures in east Jerusalem.
Most importantly, there is no housing crisis for the Arab population; it is not an Arab housing crisis that is prompting this spree of illegal Palestinian construction. Rather, the goal is political: to show the world that Jerusalem is an Arab, and not a Jewish, city. By and large, the apartments remain empty: there is simply no real demand.
Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the "contractors" are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project.
"They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it," said a resident whose land was "confiscated" by the illegal contractors.
"They tell you if you don't like it, go to court, knowing that by the time the legal procedures are over they would have succeeded in building another tall building and even selling some of the apartments.
"Many Arab land owners feel helpless. They tell us that it is their national duty to build as much as they can on any empty land, otherwise the Jews would be building there."
Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have managed to build more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The construction continues to this moment, unabated. Partial funding comes from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some Arab and Islamic countries These countries include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other oil-rich countries in the Gulf. However, the Palestinians continue to complain that the Arab and Islamic funding is below expectations.
In Area C, a stretch of land accounting for 60% of the West Bank, the European Union, which bitterly condemns construction in Jewish settlements as illegal, openly funds illegal construction carried out by Palestinians. The EU argues that its support for Palestinian construction falls under the category of "humanitarian relief" and is permissible under international law.
The EU's real goal is to help the Palestinians create these irreversible facts on the ground ahead of any possible future peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. It is aimed at facilitating the mission of the Palestinians to seize as much land as possible, even if that means funding illegal construction or providing mobile homes to Palestinian communities in this area.
In short, it is the EU and some Arabs and Muslims who are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighbourhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.
The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media -- those dozens of correspondents who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.
Forty-two Jewish families in Amona have the world riveted, but what does the world think about the Palestinian land-grab? It is time to call out this treachery, this illegality and this double-standard, and demand that the Palestinians also cease the construction of illegal settlements, which are designed with one aim in mind: to pre-determine the outcome of any future peace deal.
Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.