Anyone who has visited the West Bank in recent months has been greeted by the din of mountain-moving bulldozers and jackhammers, alongside giant foundation drills sending up clouds of dust that can be seen for miles. Cement mixers are working around the clock, and everything is being done in a grab-what-you-can atmosphere.
In dozens of settlements, including those where not even a stone has been moved for years, accelerated work is underway to fulfill hundreds of Israeli families' dream of having a house and a yard in what is still perceived here as pastoral scenery. This is in addition to the preparation of huge areas and construction in the largest settlements, where for decades work hasn't stopped for a minute: Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel, Modi'in Ilit and Beitar Ilit.
In contrast to what happened in the months preceding the moratorium and during the 10 months of the "freeze" (which was no more than a media gimmick a la Benjamin Netanyahu ) - during which a relatively large portion of the construction was in settlements east of the West Bank separation barrier - the building begun in recent months has again migrated to settlements west of the approved barrier route, those that Israel is trying to accustom the world to seeing as part of the settlement blocs.
Illegal construction is also going on. New projects in official settlements that don't include a single legal house, such as Eli and Ofra, are flourishing. The unauthorized outposts haven't seen such massive building momentum in a long time. In a few - such as Shvut Rachel, Nof Harim, Palgei Mayim, Bruhin and Mitzpeh Kramim - it is permanent construction, the likes of which has not taken place since 2002-2003.
Hundreds of laborers are energetically constructing hundreds of homes, completely disregarded by the Civil Administration, whose dozens of inspectors were apparently too busy recently with demolishing the picnic table and garbage can settlers had installed near a spring adjacent to Elon Moreh. Why confront the real issues at hand when you can continue doing nothing other than send messages to West Bank reporters about purported enforcement activities?
Construction in the settlements on such a scale has not been seen since the premiership of Ehud Barak - who recently scolded the Palestinians for their unwillingness to resume negotiations, arguing that during his term as prime minister the talks continued even though the scope of construction was four times larger than today. Despite his exaggeration, what is interesting is precisely what Barak forgot to mention: the way his negotiations with the Palestinians ended.
And perhaps that is precisely the reason the Palestinians refuse to resume negotiations. They've already seen this movie - which began with 110,000 settlers in 1993 and has now reached 330,000, with more on the way.
It's no wonder the Palestinians prefer to move the forum of their struggle with Israel to the United Nations. There, like the Jews in 1947, they are perceived as the weaker party, whose demand for recognition of a state along the 1967 borders is naturally and justifiably supported by most countries in the international community.
The story, as one of my friends recently concluded, is no longer about right versus left in Israel, because there is no longer a left in Israel. It is a campaign waged by the right-wing settler movement, assisted by the Netanyahu government, which is playing for time, against the entire world - except for our new friends in the European neo-fascist groups and the American evangelical right. With friends like these, Israel should seriously consider reaching peace with the Arab world, and quickly.
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