Israeli politicians and pundits woke up this morning to the White House settlement statement, a chilly breeze on the heat and excitement amongst the Israeli right wing over the new President and a hopeful sign for those supporting a two-state solution. While the common speculation is that the statement was issued after President Trump’s meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, a senior cabinet minister told Kafe Knesset: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Netanyahu himself asked for it,” as a tool to tame down some of the settlers demands in the Trump era.
Unlike Obama, who would have probably been blasted for such a statement, coming from the friendly Trump administration entailed coalition members to present various explanations to its essence. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely issued a response stating, “The current Israeli government has been elected to exert the right to build all around the country and we are committed to the people who chose us. The white house also believes the settlements are not, and were never, an obstacle to peace. In the past 25 years, all attempts to reach a solution with the Palestinians have been blocked. We have to reopen the fundamental questions about the core of the conflict and present new solutions. We should be considering a regional arrangement that will relieve us from depending on the Palestinians who cannot reach an agreement”.
Similarly trying to emphasise the positive sides of the statement was Chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, Likud MK AviDichterr, who said that the White House statement recognizes that existing settlements in the West Bank are not an obstacle for peace, and only refers to expanding existing settlements or building new ones in a mild and soft manner. “It’s a new optimistic approach,” he said. “At last we will be able to create a normal lifestyle for Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, just like the rest of Israeli citizens”.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv streets are set to be packed tomorrow evening, as two demonstrations are planned in the city. One, organized by Likud young activists, is dedicated to support Netanyahu and his family in the wake of his alleged criminal affairs. “We will not stand silent while the media publishes lies and persecutes the prime minister with the left. We are the people. It’s about time the left and the media accept the election results and the people’s will. Hayde BB!”, was the invite’s wording. At the same time, thousands of protesters are expected to march in the streets, in a joint Arab and Jewish demo against the government’s policy towards the Arab population. Against the backdrop of the recent demolition of 11 houses and the violent clashes in the Bedouin settlement of Um El-Hiran, dozens of civil society organizations joined the Joint Arab list, Meretz, and the Zionist union in a call for coexistence and equality.
Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh told Kafe Knesset that the clear cut difference in the way the government – and security forces – treated the recent Amona evacuation and the Um El Hiran demolition – both depicted as illegal by the supreme court – added to the discontent.
“For months the prime minister has been engaged in efforts to compensate and sweet talk the Amona settlers who stole private palestinian lands,” said Odeh. “The police came to evacuate Amona unarmed, even leaving uniforms at home, with bare hands and blue sweatshirts. After the evacuation, a packing team arrived and packed up each house, and of course, every family has a generous grant awaitiny and a promise for a mew settlement. The residents of Um El Hiran, citizens of this country who live in its sovereign territory, were not as lucky. they live in a village which the state refuses to acknoldege. As opposed to Amona they were never connected to any infrastructure, not water and not electricity and have no education system. The cops that came to evacuate them arrived armed and loaded in the middle of the night. No one packed their houses, they were totally destructed and they were left without a roof in the middle of the winter. It ended with violence and two people killed”.
The Joint list picked a BB slogan for their campaign, distributing pamphlets and WhatsApp messages stating “The Arabs are coming out in droves”, echoing the PM’s controversial election day “get out to vote” messages. Odeh said, “With Netanyahu, it’s not only about racism but it’s a political tactic. When he has to admit there is no way to avoid Amona’s evacuation he immediately promised his radical right wing constituents that he will ruin Arab homes in revenge and the destruction indeed followed. Its exactly the same tactic that brought him victory in the last elections when he warned from the Arabs coming in droves to the ballot. That’s why we will all come in droves from all around the country to Tel Aviv to a mass demonstration that will call to end racism, discrimination and incitement. We will stand together jews and arabs and protest Netanyahu and his inciting government and we will demand full equality and an end to the government’s cynical and violent assault on the Arab citizens of this county.