Letter – Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 2012
It is simply not true that Israel is ”continuously expanding Jewish settlements” and ”creeping towards the de facto creation of a Greater Israel that swallows up the Palestinians and their land” as Peter Hartcher and many of the Labor figures he spoke to for his story on Australia’s vote on the Palestinian bid to be a ”non-member state” at the UN seem to believe (”Right call sees Israel on the outer”, December 4).
Since 2004, Israel has had in place a policy negotiated with the Americans which forbids either the establishment of new settlements or the territorial expansion of existing settlements. The Netanyahu government has, to date, adhered to this policy. All the much-discussed construction in settlements has taken place within the existing boundaries of existing settlements, which take up less than 2 percent of West Bank land. Moreover, contrary to claims that the ”right-wing” Netanyahu government has been particularly pro-settlement, the rate of construction within settlements has been slower than under the previous Olmert government.
Claims that Israel’s announcement of a planning process to build in E1 would render a ”viable contiguous [Palestinian] state … dead” are absurd.
If built – and no actual construction is likely any time soon – E1 would simply connect Jerusalem to a large town that Israel would retain in exchange for land swaps in all serious peace plans proposed. Even without these areas, the West Bank at its narrowest point will still be wider than Israel at its narrowest in any final agreement.
Colin Rubenstein Executive Director, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, South Melbourne