The Israeli "Land Grab" and Hopes for Peace

(Commentary) Jonathan S. Tobin - Israel's government declared that 988 acres of vacant land in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem is "state land" and therefore might be used for development. But the way the story is being presented in the mainstream press is highly misleading. Though the move was condemned as one that would "dramatically change the reality" in the area, since it is already inside an area that is heavily populated by Jews, it's hard to see how it would affect the future of other parts of the West Bank. This isn't just any settlement bloc; it's Gush Etzion. This bloc is just south of Jerusalem and contains 22 Jewish communities with over 70,000 residents. Gush Etzion was populated and owned by Jews not only prior to 1967 but also prior to Israel's War of Independence, before it was overrun by Jordanian army units and local Palestinians after a bitterly contested siege. Its inhabitants were either massacred or taken prisoner. As such, it was the first land to be reclaimed for Jewish settlement after the 1967 war put it back in Israeli hands. Neither the ownership nor the future of Gush Etzion is up for debate in any peace talks. In every peace plan, the bloc remains part of Israel, a reality that most sensible Palestinians accept. Why then is the Gush Etzion land decision being represented as such a blow to a peace process? The Palestinians and their cheerleaders aren't really interested in negotiating peace, because it is still impossible for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

2014-09-02 00:00:00

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