Yo, Obama! You must be pretty proud of yourself for getting a 10-month settlement “freeze” from Bibi.
Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t be too happy. Putting the obvious aside (i.e. that a settlement freeze should be ETERNAL), do you honestly believe Bibi is doing this to achieve peace? To set the wheels in motion?
Come on… really?
I mean, the first thing Bibi said after he announced the freeze was that it was “temporary, a one-off”. And what do you think he told hardliners in his government like Bogi Ya’alon and Benny Begin to make them shut up and go along with him? Man, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that room when he convinced them to play ball. What kind of magic did he work? I can only imagine it was something like: “Freeze? Come on, Bogi. You know me better than that! Don’t worry, it’s just words, we’ll keep building.”
And that’s just it – because they will keep building. And they’ll keep building in the most controversial areas of the territories. Not the large settlement blocs. Nope, on the mountain ridge, in the “Wild East”, where Israeli law enforcement has not dared to step for decades.
As Amos Harel says in Haaretz today:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows his control over the land of outposts is flimsy. He is not the one who will decide how many caravans will be placed on hill 725, or how many Palestinian orchards will be uprooted near Yitzhar.
A senior defense official told Haaretz: “Israeli law was never applied in these areas. Let us presume that the Civil Administration identifies more building violations at an outpost. What will they do? They will stick another warrant on the caravan wall, asking them to get out. They will not even bother ripping it down, and they will just go on with their business.
Not only will the building go on in the Wild East, but these extremists are also going to up the pressure inside Israel proper, too. It’s already started. They’ll be holding mass demonstrations, blocking roads and snarling traffic – just like they did before the disengagement from Gaza. And worst of all – they’ll get violent too. Violent against Palestinians who live nearby, setting cars on fire, burning houses, uprooting olive trees – and it will also probably spiral into beatings and maybe even killings too.
But in the States you won’t see images of that, of the ugly stuff. Nope. This is probably what you’ll see:
And this is exactly what Bibi wants you to see. It’s all part of the plan. Do you know what this whole commotion was about in that news clip? Do you see what those dozens of soldiers and policemen were doing there? All they were trying to do was let a few inspectors into a settlement to stick up pieces of paper on a handful of illegal construction sites.
(A side note: Notice the disgusting similarity between fundamentalists on both sides of the conflict: Look at these settlers using their teenagers, mostly female, to confront big burly Israeli police and border police. And look at how over the years Palestinian extremists have sent their young ones to the front lines, either as suicide bombers or to throw stones at IDF tanks.)
Those images aren’t only for Israelis. It’s what Bibi wants Obama to see. He wants him to see the huge pressure he’s under. And actually, the more violent the settlers get, the better it is for Bibi: “You see, Barack, you see what I have to deal with? You see how this freeze is tearing my country apart? My coalition is in danger! How will I bring peace with no government! Cut me some slack, will ya?”
And this, Barack, is where you come in and say “No. Nope, I’m not laying off.” This is where you come in and NOT make the mistake again of backing down from the freeze earlier in your term.
The U.S. should not be deterred by those pictures of internal strife Bibi knows you’re watching on CNN. It should not be deterred by a surge in settler violence.
Make sure a freeze is a freeze. Make sure nothing is being built – no foundations laid, no roads paved, not even closing off a balcony. Heck, if Israel can’t enforce the freeze because it only has a few dozen inspectors who are scared to enter the settlements, then get some interns at the State Department to watch Google Earth and do it yourselves!
It’s time to go all the way with these guys.
It’s time to get nasty.