With Help from the EU, the Palestinian Authority Builds Illegal Settlements in the West Bank

March 17 2017

According to the Oslo Accords, the portion of the West Bank designated as Area C—which includes all of the Israeli settlements—is to remain under the control of Israel’s government until the parties reach a final agreement. Yet the Palestinian Authority (PA), backed by EU funds, has been systematically constructing illegal settlements there—mostly small Bedouin outposts—in an attempt to interfere with Israeli claims to the territory. Josh Hasten writes:

[A] lengthy 2009 policy paper by then-Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad [argued] that by creating substantial “facts on the ground,” the PA [could] lay claim to those areas, and demand that they be part of “Palestine” in any future negotiations with Israel. And that’s where the EU comes in—to serve as the key financier of the project. Over 1,000 illegal structures, . . . with more being erected nearly daily throughout Judea and Samaria, now proudly bear the EU flag. The EU’s false claim is that it is involved in these building endeavors for “humanitarian purposes,” to provide for the Bedouin in these areas.

[Tellingly], the EU symbol can be seen on structures only in Area C; no houses displaying it can be found in areas A or B, nor can they be found in Bedouin communities throughout the rest of the Middle East. . . .

It’s important to note that despite the illegal PA/EU activity carried out by the Bedouin squatting around [the Jerusalem suburb of] Maaleh Adumim and the surrounding villages, [all of which would inevitably remain in Israel in the event of a peace deal], Israel’s government has repeatedly gone out of its way to offer permanent housing solutions for these families.

Blueprints for the establishment of a legal town [for these Bedouin] near Jericho, to be called Ramat Nueimah, were drawn up, but that plan has been shelved for the time being. This was a result of the PA leadership (and the EU) refusing to accept a practical solution that would enhance the Bedouin’s lives but would also lessen their grip on that strategic corridor.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Bedouin, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, West Bank

As the Situation in Syria Changes, the Risks for Israel Increase

March 27 2017

On March 17, the Israeli Air Force struck a weapons convoy near Palmyra that was most likely bringing precision missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon. Syria responded with surface-to-air missiles, in turn triggering Israeli anti-missile missiles that successfully intercepted the counterattack. Yoav Limor comments on what is becoming an increasingly volatile situation:

[A series of military] successes in Syria have led the Russians, [who are fighting to prop up the Assad regime] to expand their campaign, and there is no doubt that Raqqa, Islamic State’s “capital” in Syria, as well as Palmyra and Deir el-Zor are next on Moscow’s list. Seizing control of these strategic areas will significantly increase Russia’s scope of operations, hence the increased risk factors in the regional theater, which includes Israel.

This was most likely the reason for Russia’s ire over the Israeli strike [on the Hizballah-bound convoy] in Syria, which led the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov to summon, very publicly, the Israeli ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to provide clarifications. . . . The area struck near Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, is home to a Russian base and it is possible the Russian troops felt threatened, or that someone in the Kremlin wanted to draw clear operational parameters for Israel.

To be clear: Russia has no interest in a clash with Israel or in a fresh Israeli-Syrian conflict. But if until now Moscow was conspicuously uninterested in the covert blows Israel has been dealing Hizballah and Syria, the latest signal from the Kremlin is at the very least a warning sign to remind anyone who might have forgotten that the only interest Russia cares about is its own. . . .

[T]he tensions on the northern border do not spell an inevitable Israeli-Syrian conflict, as all regional actors have a clear interest to avoid one. Assad wants to re-establish his rule and he does not want to endanger it with an unplanned escalation against Israel, the strongest regional entity; Iran and Hizballah currently prefer to expand their regional sphere of influence quietly; and Israel wants peace and quiet as long as its two main interests—preventing advanced weapons from reaching Hizballah and avoiding war on the Golan Heights—are maintained. However, . . . recent events increase the risk that the parties could find themselves in a situation that might rapidly spiral out of control and result in a full-blown conflict.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war