Forty-four new settlements only a small part of the overall problem

The Israeli group, Peace Now, released results on June 30th from their latest survey on settler activity. They found “that since the elections of February 2001 and up to the present time some 44 new settlement sites have been established in the West Bank. Nine of these new outposts (i.e. euphemism for new settlements) were erected in the period March - June 2002.”

Furthermore a Peace Now spokesperson said “The creation of new settlements harms Israel’s security and unnecessarily endangers still more IDF soldiers and citizens. It is shameful that the Defense Ministry continues to speak of taking down settlements when every day new ones crop up and IDF soldiers continue to endanger their lives for this irresponsible endeavor.”

It was written in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that according to the Interior Ministry’s population registry there are twenty illegal settler outposts in the West Bank today, and that Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said he was determined to dismantle all of them.

However, we cannot merely focus on the dismantlement of these few settlements, nor the creation of 44 more, or give the statement of there being 20 illegal settler outposts in the West Bank real credence. The fact is under international law there are 450,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, settlers who are living on land stolen from Palestinians.

It is important to discuss the new and not so new settlements, expansions and outposts, but not at the cost of limiting the debate and media focus to these. These settlements are like a cancer that is eating away the area that should be a Palestinian state - a network of over 200 settlement blocs, roads, and military bases; all of them illegal And they are the motive behind Sharon’s full reoccupation of the West Bank, which is undermining any potential for peace built upon a two state solution.