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HOLY LAND/ The “folly” of the settlements that block the peace process

Robi Ronza comments on the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and how, both the “legal” ones and the “illegal” ones are roadblocks to peace and should be withdrawn.

Palestinians protest Israeli settlements in the West Bank     (ANSA) Palestinians protest Israeli settlements in the West Bank (ANSA)

Beyond both the historical roots of their conflict and every other reason that leads to friction, one of the boulders that stands in the way of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the Jewish settlements, or colonies in the territories under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Though this issue is mostly left in the shadows, or reduced to a debate between the allegedly legal settlements and the allegedly illegal settlements, instead, in order to find a peaceful and fruitful solution to the conflict, it must be brought to the fore and faced with the utmost clarity. Quite apart from immediate reasons of friction - ranging from problems related to water intake to the opening of roads to service the settlements which run through the countryside, thus leading to expropriations and the consequent disruption of the rural territories - their presence is in itself a source of tension as it is a sign of Israel’s current or future pretension to annex the portion of Palestinian territory where the settlements stand.

Even if someone had not understood this, which frankly seems impossible, looking at the inhabitants of these settlements, who (besides some exceptions that we will talk about later) are generally extremists who live in and guard the settlements as though they were outposts of a future conquest, the situation is clear.

It must first be noted that the distinction between the settlements defined as legal because authorized and desired by the Israeli authorities and those identified as illegal because not authorized and unwanted is a false problem. The settlements are all illegal. They are illegal under international law, which states that an occupying power cannot establish colonies of its own citizens in occupied territory. It is not polite to remind the Israelis that not even Nazi Germany dared to do this in the European countries it had invaded, even in regions with a historically German culture like Alsace in France and the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. It is not polite, but it is so significant that it cannot be kept quiet.

Apart from some meager compromises, no peace is possible until the settlements as a whole are withdrawn. Nothing can reasonably justify them. On the one hand, it must be demanded that the Palestinian Authority guarantee the security of Israel, and that the Israeli settlements be withdrawn. On the other hand, the one implies the other: as long as the settlements remain, with all the consequences that go with them, the Authority cannot achieve effective control of the territory that was, in theory, entrusted to it.