World Shudders as Israel Declares 988 Acres of the West Bank State Land

If you want recent examples of clear Geneva Convention violations that no one made a big deal about, consider what Turkey has done in Northern Cyprus, or China in Tibet, or the Russians in the Baltic states after World War II.

Anyone can criticize actions taken by Israel that enable Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to expand on political grounds. But on legal grounds, their challenge is weak. The Oslo accords, signed by both Israel and the Palestinians, established a three-part demarcation of West Bank land, and the 988 acres Israel just declared as state land are entirely in Area C. This is an area in which Israel exercises full military and civilian control, and in which settlement activity and expansion was not in any way limited -- regardless of what anyone thinks of the wisdom of doing so -- and where Israel retained full control over zoning and planning (land use).

The near 1,000 acres are in an area known as Gush Etzion where 70,000 Jews already live, and in fact lived for many years prior to the 1948 war when Jordan invaded the area, along with other Arab armies, and murdered or expelled Jews from the communities where they lived. Jordan did the exact same thing -- conquer, murder, and expel Jews -- in what the world now calls “Arab East Jerusalem," which of course was nothing of the sort before the 1948 war.

As for the political criticism, it, too, is a pretty weak straw. To begin, there is no evidence that the recent fighting has brought the Israelis and Palestinians closer to a settlement than before. Rather, the exterminationist language emanating from Hamas, and their supporters around the world, might seem to suggest the atmospherics for compromise are missing. ISIS is threatening to reach Palestine and “murder the barbaric Jews” (presumably in a barbaric fashion). It seems as if the separation between the parties involves more than the shape of the table for negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam. If there is any public statement by any Hamas official suggesting they are looking for ways to secure a two-state solution so Jews and Arabs can live in peace and security, side by side in two states, I have not found it.

The fact of the matter is that the Middle East processors, the Dennis Rosses and Martin Indyks of the world, have managed to stay gainfully employed for two decades uttering their bromides about what is needed to achieve peace. And the trusted old stand-by is to condemn Israel for settlement activity, which is a lot easier than criticizing the supposedly moderate PA for rejecting every peace offer that ever came their way. The peace processing camp has always argued that “everyone knows the shape of a final peace agreement, and that it involves sharing the land, and Israel exchanging land in pre-1967 Israel for land in settlement blocs that it absorbs."

The 988 acres in Gush Etzion are in one of those blocs that everyone knows Israel will absorb, and that George Bush explicitly acknowledged in his 2004 letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. So what exactly is the problem?  Israel is going to build houses in an area that all the two-state solution obsessives acknowledge will remain in Israel if such a two-state solution were realized. How does that damage the peace process?

The real problem for Palestinians is that whether members of Hamas, or Fatah, or  Islamic Jihad, or some new branch of  radical Islam they may adhere to, their ultimate goal is shared. That goal is death to Israel. Israel, to their dismay, refuses to cooperate. They are doing a great job of making new Israelis (a birthrate 50% higher than in any other part of the developed world). And they are building houses for the new Israelis. The Israelis have concluded that "death to Israel" is not a good starting point for achieving a two-state solution. So they build houses.

What a crime against humanity.