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Gilo and Last Straws

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On the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line, upon a hilltop southwest of occupied East Jerusalem and separated from Beit Jala [a suburb of Bethlehem] by a deep gorge, is Gilo.

Gilo is understood to be an illegal settlement by the United Nations and European Union, but Israel and the US spin it as a neighborhood.

This week's announcement of Israel's plan to build 900 more dwellings in Gilo with a price tag of NIS 1.86 million for a 5-room apartment has garnered international criticism as well as from the US.

Akiva Eldar wrote for Haaretz, that "there are at least three reasons for Obama to take out his anger on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Gilo affair. The decision to approve the Gilo expansion is one more nail in Abbas' political coffin and one more blow to Obama's prestige.

"Second, Washington, as opposed to Jerusalem, paid attention to the fact that this is public, and not private, construction [of] 900 new apartments"They know that if Netanyahu had wanted he could have ordered Interior Minister Eli Yishai to postpone the discussion in the regional planning council"The impassioned reaction to U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell's request to postpone the Gilo plan outraged Obama and his staff even more than the act itself." [1]

President Obama had been discussing with President Abbas America's support for a final-status arrangement based on the 1967 borders and Netanyahu's behavior in the Gilo affair could be the last straw he needs to propel him to replace talk with action.

Haaretz journalist, Jack Khoury reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, "If [Israeli and U.S.] intentions are sincere, then I am still here and have been here for years - they could have reached a deal with me already. I told President Obama, if you can't halt [settlements] why could I? The existing political situation and Israel's consistent refusal, particularly with regard to settlements and East Jerusalem, make my direction [not to run for reelection] very clear. There is nowhere to go." [2]

On November 16, 2009, a joint communique issued from Cairo by Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "stressed the need for an immediate cessation of Israeli unilateral actions, particularly the building of settlements and jeopardizing the identity of Jerusalem and holy places".

The two leaders also agreed with President Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of resuming negotiations until Israel stops all forms of settlement construction.

King Abdullah II cautioned Israel that "Jerusalem is a red line and Israel must internalize the importance the city holds for Arabs and Christian Muslims, and stop playing with fire."

He added that if construction of settlements does not cease as a condition for renewed negotiations, then the Americans and international community must intervene.

The King also stressed that negotiations must address a permanent agreement; final borders, Palestinian refugees and that the outcome of the negotiations must lead to the promise of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

A press release from Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, General Secretary for the World Council of Churches/WCC declared, "The WCC strongly condemns the decision of the government of Israel to expand the illegal Gilo settlement as we believe that this decision will hinder attempts now in process to restart the peace negotiations. In fact, this decision to expand settlements is a violation of international law. Gilo is built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Any expansion of settlements perpetuates illegality. At a time when Palestinians--many of them impoverished--are routinely denied legitimate applications to build homes on their own land, the decision to approve construction of 900 new four- and five-bedroom housing units that will bring relatively affluent Israelis to occupied land is deplorable."

The WCC Central Committee had also recently expressed that "the continuous settlement of lands beyond Israel's internationally recognized borders (the 1949 Green Line borders) is almost universally rejected"because it is illegal, unjust, and incompatible with peace and antithetical to the legitimate interests of the state of Israel"if settlements continue to expand and proliferate, they will further complicate negotiations and may destroy any chance for peace." [3]

The ongoing illegal settlements preclude a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. Israel's denial of the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people and disregard of international public opinion could well propel people of conscience in the international community and the Obama White House toward a resolution of the Israel Palestine conflict. It is decades old policies that have driven the untenable situation to a point of no return and it is an essential national security interest for America and Israel that a just and lasting resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians be brokered.

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The last straw that broke the camel's back, is universally understood to be the final of a series of annoyances and disappointments that leads to a final loss of patience, temper, trust, or hope.

The International Community once united against the Third Reich's atrocities. The time is ripe for the International Community to unite against the inhumanity being perpetuated in the Holy Land, and Gilo just may prove to be the straw that broke this camel's back.


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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of Staff Member of, A Feature Correspondent for Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)

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