While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to battle the Goldstone report in the name of Israel's right to self-defense, and his envoys and the U.S. administration discuss terms for renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, his government is developing infrastructure in dozens of West Bank settlements.
As Akiva Eldar and Chaim Levinson exposed in Friday's Haaretz, construction over the past three weeks is taking place on both sides of the separation fence, in settlements large and small. It is being carried out in addition to the construction of 3,000 new apartments, which are in the building and planning stages in accordance with previous approvals.
The massive effort to expand settlements, prepare land and pave roads contradicts promises Netanyahu made to both the United States and the Israeli public that construction in the territories would be limited as an Israeli contribution to help restart negotiations. Faced with pressure by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and the Palestinians' demand to freeze the settlements, Netanyahu put on an innocent face, arguing that "communities cannot be frozen" and that the settlers should be allowed to live "a normal life."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz showed a similar attitude when he said the development of roads in settlements "stems from professional needs without political significance." Defense Minister Ehud Barak said through his office - which approves all construction in the territories - that his people will "look into the facts."
These evasive explanations cast doubt on the credibility of Netanyahu and his ministers and reveal something about the government's true priorities. Expanding the settlements is far more important to Netanyahu than promoting a peace deal based on the "Bar-Ilan Plan" he presented for forming a Palestinian state.
But the real problem is not the breaking of promises to the U.S. administration and Israeli public, but the severe damage that construction in the settlements is doing to Israel's most important interests. Every new home or road compromises the probability of a partition plan based on forming a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Every hilltop construction approved by Netanyahu and Barak perpetuates the occupation and accelerates the gallop toward a binational state and the elimination of Zionism.
Under the cloak of their double-talk, the prime minister and defense minister are taking steps that ruin trust and endanger Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state.
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