Negotiations Over Settlements

  • 14 March 2010

The announcement of more Israeli colonies in East Jerusalem have raised  fresh doubts on the chances of resumption of indirect negotiations between the two parties—Palestinians and Israelis—and have put efforts of both parties at cross-purposes with each other.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to control the damage to US-Israeli relations, which issued from the announcement by Israel’s Ministry of Interior to build 1,600 new houses in Jerusalem by claiming he is unaware of such an announcement. He later even apologized over the timing of the announcement. This event underscores a significant overview of matters, and assessment of dangerous situation facing Jerusalem and the West Bank that are targets of massive long-term colony-building projects. There is a major project under way for Judaization of Jerusalem through the construction of Jewish colonies, and the construction of 1,600 new housing units is only one side of the project. In addition, Netanyahu government insists on continuing the building of colonies, and agrees to freeze them only on a temporary basis—with the exception of Jerusalem. Moreover, it plans to lift the temporary freeze by September. The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said recently that Israeli government does not intend to renew the freezing process.

The aim of these indirect negotiations is to build trust that has been lost between Palestinians and Israelis as a prelude to resumption of direct negotiations, but would the announcement of more colony-building activity—at a time when preparations are under way for negotiations— build trust? Would this announcement reflect the desire of those behind it fill the gap that is widening every day of the Israeli government between Palestinians and Arabs? Does the Netanyahu government have a serious desire to work for peace, or does it want to waste more time to complete its Judaization plans and to annex more land and alter the character and identity?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly said that indirect negotiations with Israel would be “very difficult,” if Israel does not change its decision to build 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem and stop the settlement process completely. There are several players trying to overcome this problem, in order to allow the resumption of negotiations, as scheduled.
The problem does not lie with the negotiation process itself, but in the backdrop in which they are held. Since the Madrid Conference for Peace, several sessions of deliberation were held, and the problem still persists because Israel does not have a genuine desire to allow Palestinians gain their legitimate rights that are in line with international norms and references. Therefore, the proposed indirect negotiations could not have the opportunity of success under the continued expansion of colonies. Success cannot be achieved through the negotiation process, if there is mistrust among parties.