Israeli settlers emboldened by Netanyahu’s US reception

A left-wing activist blocks the entrance of a settlement during a protest against its construction in Ras al-Amud neighborhood of East Jerusalem, 27 May 2011.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - The leader of Israel’s most right-wing government since the establishment of the state 63 years ago, has returned to Israel with his popularity surging since talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington.

A survey carried out by the Israeli daily Haaretz found that following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return from the US, the downward trend in his popularity ratings has been reversed, with a growing number of Israelis approving of his premiership.

Israelis living in settlements on expropriated Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank have also been encouraged. They expressed their gratitude for the repeated standing ovations the US Congress gave Netanyahu as he addressed Congress.

Emboldened settler leader Danny Dayan said in a statement it was heartwarming to see 450 congressmen, 100 senators and the US vice president in Washington rise and applaud Netanyahu’s statement that the Jewish people were not occupiers in the West Bank.

“In any case, the number of residents has long passed the point of no return. Hundreds of thousands of people live in Judea and Samaria [the term right-wing Israelis use to describe the occupied Palestinian West Bank], and over 100,000 live outside what is called the settlements blocs. No politician can uproot them,” said Dayan.

“Netanyahu is faithful to the settlers not only in words, but in actions as well. He continues to pour resources into places that he says will not remain a part of Israel,” added Israeli rights organization Peace Now’s director Yariv Oppenheimer in a statement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, slammed Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress, saying that solutions couldn’t be presented before the two sides had negotiated. He said the PA would go to the UN for statehood recognition in September if no progress was made before then.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo added that after the Israeli premier’s speech the Palestinians had no choice but to seek alternative avenues to the peace process.

More settlement building

And while the pros and cons of Netanyahu and Obama’s talks are pontificated in the international arena, Israel and its settlers, encouraged by what they see as US support, are getting down to business with more illegal settlement building.

A new Israeli settlement in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem was inaugurated on Wednesday. One hundred illegal settlers are slated to move in shortly.

The same day Israel’s Minister of the Interior Eli Yeshai and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat signed a plan to expand the southern part of Jerusalem municipality’s jurisdiction by expropriating more Palestinian land. The illegal settlement of Ramat Rachel will be expanded by 1,600 new housing units.

As peace talks remain frozen the daily abuses against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip grinds on with few having hope of an end to the occupation any time soon.

Israeli forces continue to target nonviolent Palestinian activists involved in organizing peaceful protests against the continued expropriation of Palestinian land.

On Monday Israeli intelligence raided the Palestinian hamlet of al-Tuwani near Hebron in the southern West Bank. At gunpoint homes were ransacked, personal details taken and the villagers warned not to continue their resistance.

“Do you want to become the father of a martyr?” one of the village leaders was asked as the soldiers and intelligence agents hinted that they might retaliate against one of his children.

Children targeted

Israel’s policy of targeting Palestinian children suspected of stone throwing has been widely denounced by both Israeli and international human rights organizations.

Approximately 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted annually in Israeli military courts. In January this year 222 children were incarcerated in Israeli jails amongst adults, some of them criminals.

The interrogation of children using beatings, threats, and in some cases torture without the presence of their parents or a lawyer to coerce confessions and the signing of documents in Hebrew, which most of the children don’t understand, has reached the British Parliament.

Last year the House of Commons discussed the Israeli military court at Ofer prison near Ramallah. The issue was taken up by the House of Lords in December and again in May this year. The debates followed visits to the occupied West Bank by British members of Parliament.

One of those who visited the West Bank was Lord Alf Dubbs (who survived the Holocaust after he and hundreds of other Jewish children were evacuated from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to Britain during World War II). He weighed into the debate according to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

“When being interrogated these young people do not have the security of video recordings, lawyers or parents present. In fact, if parents want to visit, their permission might take sixty days to come through, by which time the young person might have served his or her sentence.

“The court proceedings are in Hebrew, with translations of a doubtful quality. The verdicts are mostly based on uncorroborated confession evidence. The evidence against one young person that we saw was of throwing stones at an Israeli armored vehicle, for which he is likely to get sixty days in custody.”

In fact Palestinian children as young as seven have been assaulted and arrested by Israeli police in the flash-point neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.

Several weeks ago Thaer Abu Nime, 9, and Yousef and Radwan Abu Nime, both 7, were assaulted and arrested on suspicion of stone throwing and taken to a Jerusalem police station. They were released shortly afterwards.

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