By using settlements as a punitive response to Palestinian political actions, Israel proves they come at the direct expense of Palestinian statehood, and that it holds all the power in this conflict.
Here we go again. Palestinians do something Israel doesn’t approve of, and Israel retaliates by using its unchecked power and leverage to block the possibility of a Palestinian state ever becoming a reality.
By announcing the advancement of about 3,300 settlement units on Thursday, as a retaliatory measure that it unabashedly admits is punishment for the formation of the temporary Palestinian unity government, Israel is proving that settlements come at the direct expense of Palestinian livelihood – that they are the main obstacle to a two-state solution and a Palestinian state.
Settlements as a form of punishment also exhibit that Israel is the omnipotent power and that any form of negotiations within this reality is inherently imbalanced and ineffective. Israel controls the reality on the ground and does as it pleases, when it pleases, while laying blame on the Palestinians. Even though Israel is constantly taking unilateral actions, when Palestinians do so, it is suddenly out of bounds.
It is not the first time Israel has used settlement expansion as a direct response to Palestinian efforts to promote statehood in the international arena. It did so in 2012 after the UN recognized Palestine as a non-member state with observer status, and in 2011 when Palestine was successfully admitted to UNESCO.
In recent years, every time Palestinians take an independent political step in an effort to somehow alter their evergreen reality as a stateless, occupied nation, Israel punishes them for it – as if it were an abusive parent.
Can you imagine the Palestinians doing the same thing in response to their objection to the makeup of the Israeli government or its actions in the international community? Of course not, because the Palestinians do not hold that kind of power. They cannot affect direct and immediate changes on the ground the way Israel can, through demolishing homes, cutting off water or electricity, withholding tax revenues, intimidating people, arresting children, etc. All of these tools are of course very violent, but if Palestinians so much as throw rocks, they are immediately cast as the violent party and often at risk of death.
Palestinian daily lives are entirely subject to Israeli rule and systematic violence – and whether they respond with violence or try through various long-term non-violent means to change the reality – i.e. through popular protests, applying to international bodies or boycott movements, they are punished. Israel puts a lot of energy and resources into delegitimizing and debilitating the non-violent efforts.
It is not just the fact that Israel is expanding settlements on a future Palestinian state – something the entire international community agrees is a direct affront to Palestinian self-determination – as a form of punishment, but the cynical and cruel way in which it uses Palestinian lives, land and resources as a bargaining chip, a blackmailing tool, a pawn to promote its own agenda.
When you think about it, it is really quite astonishing that the world lets Israel get away with it, over and over again, and that so many people still seem to think this is a conflict with two equal sides and that Israel has any intention of facilitating the establishment of a Palestinian state.