New wave of Israeli settlements in occupied territories

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An Israeli Cabinet minister has called for a renewed wave of settlement construction now that President-elect Donald Trump is signaling an end to longstanding White House opposition to the settlements.

Science Minister Ofir Akunis told Army Radio Thursday that, “We need to think how we move forward now when the administration in Washington, the Trump administration and his advisers, are saying that there is no place for a Palestinian state.”

Earlier, Jason Greenblatt, one of Trump’s advisers on Israel, told Army Radio that Trump doesn’t believe settlement activity should be condemned and doesn’t view the settlements as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

Republican candidate Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the US.presidential elections may help ease international pressure on Israel over its long-running conflict with the Palestinians in the future, observers here said.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was careful to not voice an opinion on his favored candidate, the tumultuous relationship with the administration of Barack Obama, with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state during part of the time, had many Israelis believing the Israeli leader had a clear preference toward Trump.

In recent months, international pressure against Israel has mounted. As Israelis and Palestinians are embroiled in violence on a nearly daily basis and Israeli settlements continuously expand, the international community is growing impatient with the impasse.

Resolutions without solutions

Time and again, anti-Israeli resolutions were adopted at international bodies, with Obama staying vocal in his dismay with Israeli policies.

With Trump at the White House, it is seen unlikely that Netanyahu will be pressured to make changes in dealing with the Palestinians.

During his campaign, Trump even promised to overturn decades of US foreign policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the US embassy from the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.

The status of Jerusalem has been one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israel captured the Palestinian-dominated eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it to west Jerusalem. The annexation is not recognized by the international community.

Naftali Bennet, a key member in Netanyahu’s ultra-right coalition, hailed the winning of Trump, saying it means that the “era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Trump’s win may prompt Obama to act to prevent a huge change in US policy on Palestine, said Alon Liel, a former senior Israeli diplomat and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University.

He said that for Obama, the remaining two months until Trump takes over the oval office may be the golden hour.

“I think the next two months are critical to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” Liel said. “After seven and a half years of loudly speaking in favor of a Palestinian state and against the settlements, he will leave his mark.”

Liel was referring to a possible United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the 1967 Middle East War borders.

“My gut feeling is that Obama will not veto it in order to prevent a huge change in the American policy once Trump is in the White House,” Liel said. “This is not something that Trump can cancel.”

Although the Palestinians and Israelis have not sat at the negotiating table since April 2014, Liel said the prospects now for resumption remain slim.

A lot depends on the final weeks of the Obama administration, he said.

“If there is no UNSC resolution, everything will continue. Israel will do nothing, and continue with the settlements,” Liel said. “Nobody will even ask America to stop it.”

“What this victory is doing is that it puts everything in Israel’s hands. The world can declare. The world can state, but we will have four years, where there will be no one phone call screaming from the White House to Jerusalem,” Liel said.

“I don’t see the possibility of a peace process,” he said, noting that as Israeli settlements expand, a viable Palestinian state will be more difficult to establish.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will oppose this together with the international community or he will be indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, letting it manage itself.

In a column posted on the Nana news website, political analyst Moav Vardi said Netanyahu can be “calm” about the Palestine issue, but on other issues Netanyahu “does not know what to expect.”

Israel shells Syrian regime in Golan

Israeli occupation forces shelled on Wednesday a mortar artillery battery which belongs to the Syrian army in the northern Golan Heights.

Israel Public Radio International (PRI) reported that the bombing came following a mortar shell which has fell in the occupied part of the Golan Heights from Syria.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that Israel believes that the Syrian army is fully responsible for all the bombings taking place in the Syrian Golan, adding that Israel will not accept any breach of Israel’s sovereignty from the Syrian side.