In December 2016, a controversial U.N. Security Council meeting was held to issue a resolution condemning Israel for building Jewish settlements on disputed land which many in the international community feel, hinder any possibility of a two state solution for both Israel and Palestine. When the U.S. abstained from voting instead of issuing a veto, the resolution was passed despite the strong objections by Israel, the republican President-elect Donald Trump and many of his supporters. Our current President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry have withstood the harsh criticism from these quarters on the basis that the two state solution has been the U.S. policy going back decades with numerous republican and democratic presidential administrations.
On 12/29/16 The BBC News did a brief write up to answer the question, “what are settlement:”
What are settlements?
Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war (Six Day War).
This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The West Bank and East Jerusalem had previously been occupied by Jordan (Transjordan) since the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War.
According to the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, there are 131 settlements in the West Bank, comprising about 385,000 Israeli Jewish settlers, and 97 outposts – settlements built without official authorisation.
The group says there are 12 settlements in East Jerusalem, inhabited by about 200,000 settlers.
There are also dozens of settlements on the occupied Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 war.
Built-up settlement areas occupy about 2% of the West Bank but critics point out that the land controlled by settlement activity, such as agriculture, amounts to much more than that and requires heavy military presence.
The following is the status of Israeli Settlements as of 2016.
The international community considers the settlements in occupied territory to be illegal, and the United Nations has repeatedly stated that Israel’s construction of settlements constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Israeli-occupied area known as East Jerusalem along with Israel’s West Jerusalem form greater Jerusalem. The Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (within Syrian territory) and East Jerusalem are considered settlements by the international community despite Israel having taken steps to annex both areas to Israel but this annexation is not recognized by the international community.
Overall, I am a supporter of the 2 state solution for Israel and Palestine; however, the U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is not being completely accurate when he states the following words, ““It’s important to note that every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace.” This pronouncement is contrary to a previous understanding that Israel believed that it had with the U.S., and this is the reason that Israel is so upset today with the current 2016 U.S. stance.
As per a 4/24/2008 Washington Post article by Glenn Kessler, “A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2004) has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president’s efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.”
“Ehud Olmert (2008), the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush’s letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush’s peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.”
The following overview of Israeli settlements is reported on by Steve Inskeep of NPR in a 3/17/15 interview of an Israeli transplant, Gershom Gorenberg:
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
While reporting in Israel earlier this month, we drove into a neighborhood in Jerusalem. A man had given us detailed directions to his home. He warned us the streets were too tangled even for Google Maps. We waited until dark when he was finished observing the Jewish Sabbath. And then we took a few wrong turns before we found his building. The man who welcomed us to sit at his kitchen table that night was Gershom Gorenberg. He is an Israeli who was born in the United States.
GERSHOM GORENBERG: I came here to study for a year. And I found two things about Israel that really kept me here.
INSKEEP: He’s remained for decades in Israel because Jewish issues are at the center of public life.
The history of Israeli settlement reaches decades before 1967. From the late-19th century onward, people who dreamed of a Jewish homeland moved to the Middle East to found cities and communal farms.
GORENBERG: Settlement served a series of purposes which fit in with the state-building project. Part of it was that the ideal was not just that Jews would return to their historical homeland, but they would literally return to the soil. It was part of a romance of labor in the soil that was very common in the politics of the era.
INSKEEP: The farms also became bastions of defense. After Israel’s independence in 1948, Gorenberg argues, the farms were not needed for defense anymore. Israel had an army.
GORENBERG: But old values stick. And they affect how people make decisions, most of all when they are confused, or they don’t know which way to go.
INSKEEP: Such a moment arrived after 1967. On this point, a left-leaning writer like Gorenberg agrees with historians on the right. Israelis were completely surprised to conquer so much territory in 1967. Successive governments never quite agreed on what to do with the land. Yet those governments did support Israeli settlements within it.
SGORENBERG: And Israelis are far more concerned with the public square than anything I ever experienced in America.
INSKEEP: People are involved in the community. And Gorenberg is involved in Israel’s cacophonous public debate. He writes books. One is called “The Accidental Empire.” It traces Israeli settlements in territory captured in the 1967 war. Another is called “The Unmaking Of Israel.” It argues settlements undermine the Jewish state.
GORENBERG: So when the first settlements were established in occupied territory, they were not part of an agreed policy with an endpoint.
INSKEEP: The settlements have spread for decades now. The United Nations Security Council and much of the world have said they are not legal. They have complicated negotiations over a final peace settlement with Palestinians. They’ve solidified Israeli rule over territories where millions of Palestinians cannot vote in Israeli elections. Gorenberg contends settlements endanger both the rule of law and Israeli democracy. But surveys show Israelis uncertain about what to do now.
GORENBERG: Somewhere between 65 and 70 percent in most of the times I’ve looked at the results will say it’s important or very important to return to negotiations. And somewhere between 25 and 30 percent will say that those negotiations have a chance of success, which is to say that there is an ongoing plurality of 40 percent of Israelis who think it’s very important to return to negotiations of whose success they despair.
GORENBERG: I think that the existence of Israel as a democracy and as a Jewish state is very much in danger from the continuation of the settlement effort and by the failure to reach a two-state agreement. And in saying that, I would stress that this is not a radical position in Israeli politics.
INSKEEP: Israel’s problem is simple math. Israel could give Palestinians the vote, but Jews would lose their overwhelming majority. Israel could keep ruling Palestinians but would cease to be a democracy. Or Israel could let go of the Palestinian territories.
“The writer Gershom Gorenberg contends Israel will be forced to choose no matter how long it puts off that decision. After we said goodbye, Palestinians abruptly did become an issue in today’s Israeli election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting for his job, declared he would block a Palestinian state now. His main opposition leader favors negotiations toward creating a Palestinian state but says it may not be immediately possible.”