By Constructing in the Settlements, Israel Is Giving a Boon to Boycotters

Netanyahu and Ya'alon are more concerned with appeasing the extreme right than with the rising threat to Israel's standing in the world.

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Kedumim, one of dozens of West Bank settlements that had a large part of its debts erased.
An Israeli settlement. Credit: Tali Mayer
Haaretz Editorial

The prime and defense ministers have decided to advance the construction of hundreds of housing units in the territories, including in isolated settlements that aren’t part of any plan for future annexation. For more than a year, the government had frozen construction, apparently out of fear that the American government would change its veto policy, and in order to stave off international pressure. It’s not clear why Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon decided to resume building now, and thereby give the international community, and especially the United States, fresh ammunition to attack Israel.

Construction in the territories, which is considered a violation of international law, has in recent years been the main reason for the freeze in the diplomatic process, the intensification of formal and informal boycotts against Israel and the European Union’s decision to label settlement products. Israel, however, has turned such construction into a national symbol, even though it’s long since been proven that the settlements don’t help Israeli security, but harm it.

Israel, which trembles at every Palestinian diplomatic move aimed at stopping such construction and condemns every country that supports such Palestinian initiatives, must take the blinders off its eyes. The government’s contribution to alienating the international community is substantial. Construction permits like those issued by Netanyahu and Ya’alon make it clear even to the American government that there is no Israeli partner, so all that’s left for it to do is engage in holding actions, like supporting the Palestinians’ demand for adoption of a UN resolution against the settlements.

Granted, such a resolution probably wouldn’t halt construction in the settlements, but it would clearly demonstrate the international community’s views and serve as the basis for a much more aggressive policy against Israel. Netanyahu and Ya’alon would then have to explain to the Israeli public why it has to pay the price for this diplomatic lunacy, why scientists and other researchers can’t participate in international conferences and why Israeli merchandise runs into export problems.

But these threats apparently don’t impress our terrified leaders, who are rushing to find favor in the eyes of the extreme right, which is snapping at their heels. This is the same right that curses and abuses the defense minister because he insists on upholding the law and the Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement rather than degenerating into murderous anarchy, and that sees Netanyahu as a bleeding-heart leftist.

Any rational leader should halt construction in the settlements now and begin substantive negotiations with the Palestinians.