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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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Week 2252 of Occupation
By: Daniel Breslau
26 July-1 August 2010

When talks are bad for peace

The stage was set this week for another round of the Palestinian pacification process, also known as peace talks. When first undertaken, the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to engage in negotiations with Israel as long as settlement expansion continued was one of the most positive developments in the region in years. The PA was threatening to make itself relevant. It was showing signs of a newfound responsiveness to its people, who saw recent negotiations as collaboration in their ongoing dispossession. And the half-legitimate government of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad was helping to shine a light on Israel`s creeping annexation, by denying the cover of negotiations to settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

During the three months of indirect `proximity talks,` Israel`s government has not offered a single proposal on core issues, except refusing to start with the standing proposals of its predecessors. This is consistent with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s apartheid campaign platform, offering economic development while freezing the political status quo. Israel`s government wants to ease its isolation by engaging in direct negotiations, while the governing coalition`s future depends on those talks going nowhere.

The US administration has likewise decided that fruitless political theater is preferable to actual political progress. PLO official and Palestinian parliamentarian Hanan Ashrawi was quoted on Friday saying that the US had threatened to cut ties with the Palestinian Authority if it did not agree to direct talks. There is no doubt that tremendous pressure has been placed on the Palestinians by the US, directly and indirectly through third parties. By not putting comparable pressure on Israel, Barack Obama`s administration has assured that the talks will fail.

From the perspective of a real resolution to the conflict, these talks are worse than no talks at all. Israel`s isolation is not sufficiently abject to move its government to value a just solution more than its own political fortunes. It is time to wield every nonviolent means of pressure from outside and resistance from within. Direct negotiations will stifle these efforts. Indeed, that is their purpose.

The prison diet improves

Since Israel has eased restrictions on imports to Gaza on 20 June, the number of truckloads of supplies allowed to enter has increased by 77% above the average of 553 truckloads weekly for this year prior to that date.
The easing does not alter the fundamental reality that Gaza`s population is kept dependent on outside assistance for its basic needs. The complete ban on exports, severe restrictions on movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip, signal a deliberate effort to prevent the restoration of anything like normal economic activity. And without the resumption of exports, the easing of imports will have little effect on unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity.
Settlers take over Jerusalem home

Over 45 members of the Kirresh family live in the Ottoman-era home in the narrow As-Sadyya street of Jersualem`s Muslim Quarter. When the family returned home from a wedding in the early morning of Thursday, 29 July, they found armed police blocking the entrance to the house where they have lived for over 70 years. While they were out, a group of settlers from the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, a far-right organization dedicated to displacing the Palestinian residents of the occupied Old City, had seized the house, with police escort.

Wave of West Bank demolitions continues

Israel`s enforcement of a construction freeze against the Palestinian population of the West Bank has been much more aggressive than its efforts to freeze the construction of illegal settlements. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that Israel has continued a stepped-up demolition campaign aimed at unlicensed Palestinian construction. It is impossible for Palestinians living in `Area C`, under total Israeli jurisdiction, to obtain construction permits. This week eight families lost their primary source of income when Israeli bulldozers tore down their stables, fruit stands, car wash, garage, and houses. The previous week saw a sweep through the Jordan Valley in which 86 structures were demolished.
When two mobile homes in the illegal settler outpost of Givat Ronen were removed by Israeli authorities on Monday, 26 July, settlers rampaged in nearby Palestinian villages, stoning residents of Burin and setting fields on fire in Hawarrah.

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