settlements - Nir Kafri - October 22 2010
Construction in the settlement of Yakir after the freeze’s end in September 2010. Photo by Nir Kafri
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The Palestinian leadership, as most experts say about the Iranian leadership, is calculating its steps rationally.

Ramallah knew that the appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council would elicit a response from Israel, would annoy the Americans, and wouldn’t bring them any closer to ending the occupation.

Why would a rational person think a UN probe into the settlements would lead to any other results than those the results of the Mitchell Report, which recommended that construction be completely stopped and that outposts be evicted, or of the Road Map that recommended the Mitchell Report findings be implemented?

What more can we learn from an investigation into the settlement that we haven’t yet learned from Attorney Talia Sasson's report on illegal outposts? What will the UN probe into the settlements teach us about the settlers’ attacks on the rights of Palestinians that haven’t been made public in the periodic publications of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or the websites of Peace Now, B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Bimkom, and Breaking the Silence?

It’s enough to look through the archives of the Israeli High Court of Justice and the Israeli press to determine that the settlers - aided by the Israeli government after Israeli government -  are depriving Palestinians of their land, restricting their freedom, and generally making their lives generally more difficult. It is a shame to waste money on the stipends of the investigation staff.

So why did the Palestinians decide they need this investigation? They know no good came to them from the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. It is hard to believe that they have forgotten the onslaught they suffered in the hands of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the American Congress, as a result of their failed attempt to be admitted to the UN and their admission to UNSECO.

It is unlikely that sober leader like Mahmoud Abbas hadn’t first considered the repercussions that Netanyahu’s friends in Congress would dish out in retaliation for their appeal to one the most loathed intuitions in American politics. Doesn’t he know that Republicans are looking for excuses to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority?

In light of the fact that this move seems to play to the hands of Netanyahu, every rational Israeli should be worried by it. It is another testimony to the erosion in the faith the Palestinians hold in the prospect of reaching an agreement with Israel on a final settlement through negotiations, in the United States, and in the Quartet.

What we are seeing is the behavior of a neighbor that is swinging his fists erratically at windmills in despair. This is a warning signal, maybe the last, before more than 120 recognize Palestine as a sovereign nation with the 1967 lines as its borders.

It is true that a vote in the UN General Assembly isn’t equivalent to a vote in the Security Council, but it will make it a lot harder for Netanyahu to claim, as he has in the past, that the West Bank isn’t occupied rather it is “disputed territory.”

Through the years the Palestinians have stubbornly refused to appeal to the UN or the International Court in The Hague to take action against the settlements. According to international law, the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory is forbidden. Israel claims that this is willful immigration and not government a sanctioned transferring of populations.

The Palestinians believe that measures taken against Israeli settlements outside the West Bank would be misconstrued as recognition of Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line. Were Israel to have a more rational government, it would see the Palestinian actions as what they are a Palestinian recognition of Israel within the 1967 borders.