(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Instead of halting settlement construction, Israel has announced plans to add another 1,100 homes to the settlement of Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem. The announcement laid bare Israel's real intentions.
The European Union and the United States have condemned the Gilo project. China, Egypt, Russia and other major powers have added their voices to the criticism of Israel.
The Israeli announcement precludes any possibility of negotiation with the Palestinians who had earlier announced that there should be a moratorium on settlement activity before any direct talks.
The Palestinian bid for recognition of their state by the United Nations is going ahead as expected, with hopes that they would be able to garner the required nine votes in the UN Security Council, which would lead to a US move to veto the draft resolution.
According to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki, the Palestinians have secured so far eight positive Security Council votes for their UN membership bid, just one short of the nine they need. The eight are Lebanon, Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria and Gabon. To ensure more support, Malki is due to visit Bosnia shortly, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Colombia, Portugal, Honduras and the Dominican Republic this month.
A US veto against the Palestinian move is reported to be a certainty, since the Obama speech at the UN General Assembly signalled that the Democratic administration has already started its reelection campaign and is in dire need of all AIPAC support. But the Security Council endorsement of Palestinian statehood will be a historic turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ought to bring many new elements into the quest for peace in Palestine based on a two-state solution.
A US veto need not be seen as that bad since the move will expose the reality that Washington has run out of ideas to work out an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. It will be yet another admission in public that the administration of President Barack Obama is incapable of applying pressure on Israel to accept fairness and justice as the basis for a peace accord with the Palestinians.
A majority support in the Security Council and a veto by the US will place Washington in a tight corner, putting at risk Washington's credibility among the Arabs who earlier in Cairo had heard a different Obama tune.
While no one doubts Obama's sincerity in the push for peace in Palestine, one realises that he is constrained by political imperatives at home. The expected US veto will reveal that other players have to be active in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The US and Israel will resist calls for Europeans and others to assume a political role in the so-called Middle East peace process, but will face increased pressure in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN membership.
Washington wants to retain sole control of the "peace process". Hence the international Quartet's proposal that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resume in one month's time, with an agreement that it should conclude by the end of 2012 deadline. The Quartet's proposal is a smokescreen for the US failure to broker a peace agreement and is also aimed at warding off suggestions that other countries also play a political role in the quest for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Now that the Palestinians request has gone before the Security Council, there is not much American enthusiasm over the Quartet's proposal, since both Israel and the Palestinians have responded cautiously to it.
Israel said it was studying the offer and the Palestinians emphasisedthat they will not resume peace negotiations without a freeze of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories.
Israel believes that it is entitled to have its own laws and code of international behaviour because of the suffering of the Jews over the centuries and the holocaust, as well as because of its perceived "status" of Jews, as the "chosen people".
As the quest for votes in favour of the Palestinians continues at the UN Security Council, focus has also shifted to Palestinian state building. The process suffered several setbacks in recent times, but Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has done a good job at setting in place state institutions that have drawn praise from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Palestinian Authority saysthat Israel's occupation of Palestinian land costs the Palestinian economy at least 4.35 billionand this moneycould be used to ensure a healthy financial surplus and end dependence on foreign aid.
According to a report prepared by the PA, a series of non-security related restrictions on access to natural resources, including water, Dead Sea minerals and farmland, have shrunk the economy of the West Bank and Gaza to little more than half of what it could be.
It said that Israel has gone out of its way to exploit Palestinian resources for its own benefit, while imposing constraints designed "to prevent any Palestinian competition with Israeli economic interests".
While it is indeed the "cheapest occupation in the world", as Palestinian Economy Minister Hasan Abu Libdeh phrased it, it is also the "most profitable occupation", since the Palestinian territories remain a captive market for Israeli goods.
Israel uses 10 times as much of the water from West Bank aquifers as the Palestinians.
Abu Libdeh said that while 620,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, cultivated 6,500 hectares of irrigated agricultural crops, charges for water and electricity are up to 50 per cent higher for Palestinians even though they use their own terrain and natural resources.
As the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic wrangling continues, Israel can be expected to impose more restrictions on the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. The international community should recognise this truth and move to help the Palestinians with nation building, in parallel with possible peace negotiations.