Palestinians Are Building Illegal Settlements to Extend Their Claims to Jerusalem

Just about everything frequently alleged against Israeli settlements in the West Bank can be said, truthfully, about recent Palestinian construction on the outskirts of Jerusalem, writes Bassam Tawil. Such construction is illegal; it is intended to impede the possibility of a two-state solution; and it often takes place on land stolen from private Palestinian owners.

Apparently, settlements are only a “major obstacle to peace” when they are constructed by Jews. In recent years, and continuing to the present, Palestinians, with the aid of Western donors for whom only Jewish construction is anathema, have been working night and day to create irreversible facts on the ground. . . .

Recently, entire Arab neighborhoods 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. These are ridiculous prices compared with the market costs of apartments in both Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase a three-room apartment in the city for less than $250,000. . . .

[I]t 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.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Palestinians, Settlements

How to Prevent Saudi Arabia from Getting Nuclear Weapons

Skeptics of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran warned that it could prompt a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. As they predicted, Saudi Arabia has been seeking assistance from the U.S. in obtaining civilian nuclear capabilities, while also speaking—in imitation of the Islamic Republic—of a “right” to enrich uranium, something it pledged not to do in a 2008 agreement with Washington. Were Riyadh to begin such enrichment, it could also produce the fuel necessary for nuclear weapons. Emily Landau and Shimon Stein warn of the dangers inherent in Saudi proliferation, and discuss how the U.S. and Israel should respond:

So long as the motivation to go nuclear remains strong, states are likely to find a way to develop [nuclear] capabilities, even if they have to pay a price for doing so. In Iran’s case, the major motivation for going nuclear is to enhance its hegemonic power in the Middle East. . . . But in the case of Saudi Arabia, if strong international powers . . . were to take a harsher stance toward Iran’s regional aggressions and missile developments and were to cooperate in order to improve the provisions of the [2015 nuclear deal], this would most likely have a direct and favorable impact on Saudi Arabia’s calculations about whether to develop nuclear capabilities.

A decision by the U.S. administration (or for that matter any other supplier) to allow Saudi Arabia to have enrichment capabilities will confront Israel with a dilemma.

On the one hand, it has been Israeli policy to do its utmost to deny any neighboring country with whom it does not have a peace treaty the means to acquire and develop a nuclear program. If Israel remains loyal to this approach, it should seek to deny Saudi Arabia enrichment capabilities. In practical terms this would imply making its opposition known in Washington.

On the other hand, given the “tactical alliance” with Saudi Arabia which has been primarily developed in response to the common Iranian threat, Israel could consider sacrificing its long-term interest in denying nuclear capabilities for the sake of its current interest in cultivating relations with the Saudis. Israel, [however], should support the traditional U.S. nonproliferation policies that allow states to have access to nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, while denying them the option to produce it themselves.

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More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia