Netanyahu kæmper for bosætternes støtte
Singing and dancing greeted a triumphant Benjamin Netanyahu when he visited Eli, then a young settlement of 959 residents, shortly after first becoming Israel’s prime minister in 1996. “We will be here permanently forever,” he declared in nearby Ariel that day, promising to renew the internationally contentious construction of Jewish communities across the land Palestinians plan as their future state.
Struggling for settlers’ support ahead of Israel’s March 17, electuions, the newspaper “The New York Times” writes that Netanyahu returned last month to Eli now a boomtown of more than 4,000 people that sprawls across six hilltops amid Palestinian villages and farmland. This time, he did not speak about new building, but his presence was a statement in itself: Eli is among dozens of isolated settlements whose expansion and entrenchment threaten the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Steady growth of settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most world leaders consider violations of international law, complicates both the creation of a viable Palestine and the challenge of someday uprooting Israelis, who are now raising a second and third generation in contested areas.
Along the road from Eli to Ariel one recent afternoon, a Palestinian man grazed a few cows and sheep on a grassy hillside, and scores of teenagers in white Islamic head scarves walked home from school. Inside the settlement’s gate, where a new shopping complex opened last year, bulldozers were at work on construction of a $3.8 million, 300,000-square-foot community center. A sign at the entrance announced, “Eli: A Big Place to Grow.”
As Netanyahu seeks a fourth term, his record on settlements is a central element of his troubled relationship with Washington, alongside the divergence on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Construction in the West Bank is also at the heart of mounting European criticism of Israel.
In the campaign, Netanyahu is navigating between his center-left challenger, Isaac Herzog, who promised to freeze construction beyond the so-called settlement blocks near Israel’s pre-1967 lines, and rightists who say the prime minister has not built nearly enough.
An analysis of planning, construction, population and spending data over the past two decades shows that Netanyahu was an aggressive builder during his first premiership in the 1990s, when the West Bank settler population rose at roughly three times the total Israeli rate.
But since returning to Israel’s helm in 2009, Netanyahu has logged a record similar to the less-conservative leaders sandwiched between, with those settlements swelling about twice as fast as Israel overall.
In those recent years, however, Netanyahu has taken several steps that make drawing a two-state map particularly problematic, and has declared: “I do not intend to evacuate any settlements.” He has taken more heat over settlements than his predecessors, analysts said, in part because of his broader intransigence on the Palestinian issue and the use of construction as a retaliatory tool.
But Netanyahu is also a focus of international ire because of the cumulative effect of decades of settlement growth. With negotiations stalled between the Palestinians and Israelis, the number of settlers in the West Bank now exceeds 350,000 — including about 80,000 living in isolated settlements like Eli and Ofra that are hard to imagine remaining in place under any deal.
In addition, there are another 300,000 Israelis living in parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and later annexed in a move most of the world considers illegal.
“The reality of all those years of construction, to which Netanyahu is now adding his significant share, has created a sense of urgency and of panic,” said Aaron David Miller, who advised six American secretaries of state on the Middle East.
“Each of those other prime ministers who were builders was also able to placate Washington and cooperate with it because they were involved in some significant effort to actually negotiate and conclude an agreement. Netanyahu has drawn a blank or a zero on that,” Miller added. “If you have no strategy, and what you’re doing is increasing settlement activity, the perception is, frankly, that you’re not serious.”
First elected in 1996 on a promise to reverse a four-year freeze on settlement expansion in all but a few areas, Netanyahu endorsed the concept of two states for two peoples upon regaining Israel’s top job in 2009, saying in his famous Bar Ilan speech: “We have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.”
Netanyahu now explains his building initiatives as an inevitable accommodation to natural growth and says they have not materially affected the map, only added, as he put it, “a few houses in existing communities.” He rebuts any suggestion that settlements are the core of the conflict, noting that Arabs and Jews were fighting in this land long before they existed.
“From 1920, when this conflict effectively began, until 1967, there wasn’t a single Israeli settlement or a single Israeli soldier in the territories, and yet this conflict raged,” he said in an October interview with Bloomberge View. “What was that conflict about? It was about the persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state, before it was established and after it was established.”
Still, the American who led the latest round of failed Israeli – Palestinian negotiations, Martin S. Indyk – has said that Netanyahu’s “rampant settlement activity” had a “dramatically damaging impact.” The Palestinians plan to file a case in the International Criminal Court in April contending that settlements are a continuing war crime.
Some 25,000 runners are expected to participate in the fifth Jerusalem Marathon this morning.
They are expected to participate in the fifth Jerusalem Marathon today. The race will disrupt traffic throughout the capital Jerusalem until 2 P.M.
More than 800 police officers will be on hand to secure the event and to close many main streets in the city. Ben Tzvi Boulevard was closed late last night.
From 5:30 A.M., the following streets and sites will also be closed: Ruppin Boulevard, Hebrew University Givat Ram campus, Netanel Lorch, Rabin Boulevard, Haim Hazaz Boulevard, Tchernichovsky, Hapalmach, Hanasi, Keren Hayesod, King George, Jaffa, Zahal Square, Hatzanhanim, Haim Bar-Lev Boulevard, Adam Smith, Lehi, Martin Buber, Benjamin Mazar, Churchill, Kariv, Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate, Hativat Yerushalayim, David Remez, King David, Jabotinsky, Chopin, Dubnov, Graetz, Emek Refaim, Harakevet, Bethlehem, Hebron, Yanovsky, Yehuda, Pierre Koenig, Elazar Hamodai, Kovshei Katamon, Yehoshua Bin Nun and Sacher Park.
Disruptions are also expected on streets close to the marathon route, to light-rail service and to transportation for special-education students.
Classes have been canceled at some schools along the marathon route. Police and city officials said all roads should be open by 2 P.M.
The Mahane Yehuda market will be open as usual.