Even as dust from the Gaza war is yet to settle, Israel has embarked on another outrageous and provocative act: seizing a large tract of West Bank land for settlement building. The action has been severely criticized and condemned by several countries, including Israel’s close ally the US. Surprisingly, the land grab has met with opposition internally too, and that too from some senior Israeli ministers like finance minister Yair Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni. Lapid warned that Israel was eroding its international support with the latest action and complained the security cabinet had not been consulted about Sunday’s announcement of the confiscation of 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank. “Maintaining the support of the world was already challenging, so why was it so urgent to create another crisis with the United States and the world?” he had asked.
The US too was harsh in its criticism. The State Department called on Tel Aviv to reverse its plan. According to reports, the language was more pointed than US spokesmen typically use, and the specific call to reverse an already declared decision was also unusual. Secretary of State John Kerry also called the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to request him to cancel the plan. European governments too have expressed their concern. There have been strong protests from the UK, France and Spain, and from Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, who was just appointed the EU’s next foreign minister.
The land grab decision shows that the right-wing government of Netanyahu is out of touch with reality and doesn’t care two hoots about the international law and global public opinion. The Gaza war has further isolated Israel; public anger against the Jewish state has intensified in Europe due to the asymmetry of the war, with the Palestinian death toll crossing 2,000, and the Boycott Israel movement has received a new fillip. The global anger should have persuaded Israel to go slow on its atrocities and land seizure. Instead, it’s trying to further provoke Palestinians and cock a snook at the world.
As Palestinian leaders have pointed out ad nauseam, the settlement expansion has been one of the biggest impediments to the restart of the peace process. They have repeatedly urged the world to act more seriously to prevent this crime by Israel, but the US and Europe have so far restricted themselves to verbal censure. Israel is used to and has developed immunity to international criticism and what is needed is deterrent action.
The Arab world has lost interest in the Palestinian cause as its own leaders are busy fighting to preserve their chairs. More vocal and meaningful support for the Palestinian cause is coming nowadays from the Western public, causing intense concern in Israel. Netanyahu must realise that confiscation of Palestinian land will not go unpunished•