Israel’s new right-wing government and the Palestinian Authority, under heavy pressure from Washington, have agreed to halt unilateral action for the next few months, according to sources in Jerusalem. Jewish settlement building in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria will likely always be a scapegoat to gain political calm or advancement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also made a number of concessions to the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, the right-wing governing coalition will ban Jews from the Jewish Temple Mount during the month of Ramadan, for at least ten days. This and more are part of the Biden administration’s terms of brokering a deal between the two sides to avoid an escalation during the month-long Islamic festival.
Under the silent agreement, the Palestinian Authority will withdraw its request for a UN Security Council vote on a resolution that would have condemned Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria.
The resolution, written after the Israeli cabinet’s decision to approve nine settlements in Judea and Samaria, was to be put to the vote of the 15-member council and would call on Israel to “immediately and completely halt all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The text, as always, reiterates the usual claim that “the construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.” The US wanted to avoid having to veto the resolution this time, partly because of Israel’s domestic situation regarding controversial judicial reform.
To avoid being forced to use its veto in the Security Council, Washington, in consultation with Jerusalem and Ramallah, expects the Palestinian Authority to remove voting on the UN resolution from the Council’s agenda. In return, according to sources, Israel has agreed to freeze its construction projects in Judea and Samaria and to halt or significantly reduce the demolition of illegal Arab buildings in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
It is unclear how long the freeze on Jewish construction and the reduction in demolitions of illegal Arab houses will last. The upcoming Ramadan runs from March 22nd to April 20th and a lot depends on how these four weeks will be played out in the country. Should there be an escalation because the radical Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip wants to drag Israel’s new right-wing government into an uprising or war, then a lot will certainly change.
This, of course, angers right-wing settler ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who have promised their constituents right-right government policies. That was to be expected and we warned against it from the outset. For years we have reported that right-wing Netanyahu governments are doing less for right-wing settler policies than Israel’s left-wing governments. Benjamin Netanyahu is repeatedly accused in the religious and right-wing media of having done the least for the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria. Especially during the tenure of US President Donald Trump. In those four years, Netanyahu had a unique opportunity to annex parts of the biblical heartland and affect a dramatic turnaround in Judea and Samaria.
But at that time Jewish settlement in the biblical heartland was again the sacrifice of the Israeli government in exchange for the Abraham Accords with Arab states. Netanyahu chose peace with the Emirates over pacifying the Jewish settlers. Netanyahu was heavily criticized for this by the Jewish Settlers Council (Yesha). And now the same again. In order to gain calm for a few months, Netanyahu has repeatedly stopped building Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. It always has been, and probably will continue to be, unless some dramatic breakthrough puts an end to it.
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