The deteriorating situation in the West Bank is somewhat of a forgotten story at the moment, but deteriorating it is. A random look at stories that appeared in yesterday’s press show how dreadful the situation has become. It is on the West Bank that the two-state solution will ultimately be realized—or collapse. The Gaza ceasefire is crucial, but it’s the realities in the West Bank that are eroding the achievability of a peace agreement everyday.
Here’s a sampling of stories:
-The Government of Israel’s refusal to comply with High Court rulings which have required restriction of the scope of the security barrier being constructed in the West Bank (as documented in a new B’Tselem report)
-The EU and Middle East envoy of the Quartet Tony Blair’s insistence that Israeli checkpoints and blockade of Gaza are negatively impacting Palestinian aid efforts and prospects for economic improvements
-The revelation that the settlers of the Amona outpost have illegally built a road through land determined as Palestinian under the Oslo Accords. Of course the “unauthorized” Amona outpost is still standing despite constant official Israeli commitments to the U.S. to remove all outposts.
-Data presented by human rights group Yesh Din arguing that only 10% of Palestinian claims of Israeli settler violence end up as indictments filed against the suspects
-That Palestinians in the West Bank are facing the prospect of chronic water shortages resulting from Israeli restrictions
So, that’s the daily round up folks. What is perhaps most depressing is that little of this can even be explained as the intentional policy decisions of the current Israeli Government – the Olmert Government seems genuinely interested in a two-state deal and easing rather than entrenching the occupation – even if it still cannot bring itself to do what is necessary either in practice or even declaratively by openly expressing a willingness to withdraw to the 1967 lines but for minor, agreed and mutual modifications. The shocking reality of the occupation in its 42nd year is that Israel knows little else (Israel has occupied the West Bank for over two-thirds of its existence) and policies today, like those mentioned above, largely operate on auto-pilot. Inertia as much as ill-will keep the settlement enterprise rolling along, the checkpoints, the “Jewish-only” use road-systems …etc – and that inertia is strangling the future for both Palestinians and Israelis. It is truly tragic and limp-wristed American policies have played a dramatic role in facilitating the tragedy.
One of the problems is just how ill-informed the debate in the U.S. often is on these issues. One daily source of information for many who follow Israel and the Middle East is something called the Daily Alert, produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). You can read their coverage of the litany of West Bank troubles here– it won’t take you long, in fact it won’t take you any time at all, to notice that the Daily Alert makes no mention whatsoever of any of these stories.
Yet the Daily Alert is a major source of information for the American Jewish community (prepared as it is on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations). Fair enough – the publication is unlikely to be a ‘this is what Israel does wrong-fest’, but it does a disservice by covering the news from such a skewed angle – it’s the Fox News American Jewish e-publication.
And it is highly political - the JCPA is run by Dore Gold, former PM to Benjamin Netanyahu, and has a very pronounced and unsurprising right-wing bent. JCPA’s key contributors read like a who’s who of the Israeli academic right, including many of the Israeli echo chamber for America’s neocons. Its selective culling of news and analysis has an aggressively hawkish orientation – and begs two questions – why do mainstream Jewish organizations that are part of the Conference of Presidents allow this to be put out in their names and is it any wonder that the policy debate in America is so tragically misguided…