The Israeli government has quietly agreed to grant subsidies to build more than 500 new homes in the West Bank, backtracking from a promise earlier this year to deny these incentives to the settlements, The Associated Press has learned.
The planned construction, at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to shore up support among settlers, has enraged the Palestinians and could cloud a visit starting Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she tries to re-energize moribund Mideast peace efforts.
The housing units are benefiting from the government’s designation of the settlements as “national priority” areas — a status normally reserved for low-income cities and towns where the government wants to encourage development and lure people to live.
Yet another blow this government has dealt the two-state solution: This is the opposite of what Israel should be doing. It should be encouraging, and financially supporting, settlers to leave the West Bank.
Some of the areas are quite close to the green line, and will likely end up being inside Israel after a negotiated settlement anyway, but this doesn’t make it any better, and here’s why. If Israel does want to build on disputed land, it needs to negotiate about the land before continuing to build. As it goes, it should be forced into making decisions as to what piece of land will be, and which pieces will be part of Palestine. That way, the demarcation into a two-state solution can begin, one of the road blocks to the peace process. The trouble is, Israel, and this government specifically, has no desire to do any of the discussing, only the building.