Freeze the Settlement Freeze

RAMALLAH – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to approve new Jewish settlements on the eve of a possible settlement freeze is the latest round in a cycle that has been repeated so many times over the past 40 years that it would seem mundane if it were not so dangerous.

The cycle goes something like this: American or international pressure mounts on Israel to stop settlement activities in the occupied territories. Israeli settlers and their supporters then gather even more energy to expand onto more Palestinian land, build more exclusively Jewish settlements, and destroy more Arab homes before the so-called “freeze” comes into effect.

The peace process, not surprisingly, becomes a joke while this happens. Eventually, world pressure subsides and the freeze fails to materialize. In the end, more Jewish settlements appear. Indeed, the great paradox of this cycle is that more settlements are built during times of negotiations than during times of conflict.

This pattern can be traced to 1967. Israelis understand that the only reality in politics is the reality on the ground. So long as Israeli soldiers control the occupied territories, the idea of a settlement freeze will not take root. In fact, the demand for a settlement freeze is nothing more than a call to arms to a wide group of Israelis and their supporters to go and build on stolen Palestinian land.