Israel must work on building peace, not settlements

There can be no excuse for Palestinian terror attacks but at the same time, Netanyahu’s government must play its part for a two-state solution to be viable

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 2:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 2:31am

The obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians are ever-present, but have been plainly evident of late. Israel is in mourning for four soldiers killed by a Palestinian truck driver who rammed into a crowd in East Jerusalem. The attack came with the Israeli government still at loggerheads with the United Nations and its closest ally, the US, over a UN Security Council resolution three weeks ago criticising its continued settlement-building in the occupied Palestinian territories. Until there is a concerted effort for a two-state solution and the violence ends, there can be no possibility of harmony.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu linked the attack to the Islamic State, although he provided no evidence. Palestinian extremists are not known to have such connections, although IS previously claimed responsibility for atrocities in Berlin, Germany, before Christmas and Nice, France, last July that also involved trucks being driven into crowds. Israelis face dozens of threats each year, although vehicles have not before been used as weapons against the Jewish nation.

Negotiations are at a standstill due to the Netanyahu government’s belief that Palestinians are not committed to a peaceful resolution. But nor will talks for a two-state solution be possible while Israel continues to build settlements in the same area where a future Palestinian state would be. Yet Netanyahu lashed out at the Security Council for its resolution, which said the settlements violated international law and undermined the agreed-on two-state solution. He ordered the severing of funding to some of the world body’s institutions and withdrew the ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, which were co-sponsors of the resolution.

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US use of its power of veto at the Security Council has for decades shielded Israel from criticism. But it was not exercised this time, an abstention enabling the 14-0 vote. Netanyahu called in the American ambassador to his country for a rebuke, along with the envoys from the other nations involved. He hit out at a subsequent speech by outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Israel of imperilling a deal.

US president-elect Donald Trump also criticised the Security Council vote and has pledged his administration will give its full support to Israel. But that will do nothing to alter the grim reality of circumstances. Just as Palestinian extremists have to end their cycle of violence and terror, Israel’s leaders have to adopt a clear policy, the most practical one being living beside a country named Palestine.