Israel appropriated 1,000 acres of the West Bank. Why now?

September 8, 2014

israelflag.jpg

Last week, Israel announced that it was appropriating nearly 1,000 acres of private Palestinian land near Bethlehem. The seizure, which one anti-settlement group called the largest in 30 years, was condemned by Palestinians, the United Nations, and criticized by the United States.

Israel has said that the move is retaliation for the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Settlement has long been considered a fair response to Palestinian attacks by some parts of Israeli society, and appropriation of Palestinian land has been a consistent policy of every Israeli government since Israel became a state in 1948. In the West Bank alone, close to 250,000 acres were appropriated since 1979, using a legal mechanism based on an interpretation of Ottoman law.

The timing of this most recent appropriation, though, has little to do with any particular act of Palestinian violence. It did have something to do with pacifying domestic opposition – the appropriation soothed some of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners critical of Israel’s ceasefire terms with Hamas. But ultimately, the move is mostly about geopolitics.

This may be the most opportune moment to push forward with the Israeli expansion into the West Bank in the past 20 years – at least as far as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned.

One reason is that Netanyahu knows that President Barack Obama has bigger fish to fry right now. Washington has to contend with escalating tensions with Russia over Ukraine, confronting the Islamic State without entangling the United States in Iraq again, as well as carrying through on its determination to reach a historic rapprochement with Iran.

The U.S.-Iranian thaw is putting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the backburner. Still, despite the blow to Netanyahu caused by the dialogue with Iran, the prime minister is quite content to exploit the shift in American attention to pursue his own agenda closer to home.

Based on his past experience, Netanyahu may be assuming that Europe will not interfere any time soon. The European public approach certainly does little to caution Netanyahu against any expansionist initiative: European condemnations against what many saw as Israeli excesses in the latest Gaza war were feeble and few, and the international reaction to the land appropriation, while certainly up a notch from lackluster comments on the Gaza conflict, did not go beyond finger-wagging.

But if it is optimism and opportunism that propel Netanyahu in this latest expansion, he would still be very ill-advised to grow entirely complacent.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to be a source of regional and global tensions and discontents long after the Iran, Isis and Ukraine fall off the agenda. It is only a matter of time before the world turns its disapproving gaze this way again.

Already, there are subtle processes underway in the European Union that suggest that it will be increasing pressure on Israel.

Banks are advising against investing in some Israeli companies, European distributors are losing interest in Israeli food produce, and intersections of various European rules and treaties are beginning to deny Israeli products originating beyond the pre-1967 boundaries access to the EU market—with the poultry sector being the most recent one to be affected.

And finally, Palestinian discontent in the West Bank is growing. The stalled peace talks, the hapless Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, and most recently, the conflict in Gaza are all contributing to the mounting frustration. One of Israel’s primary objectives this summer was undermining support for Hamas in the West Bank through wide-ranging arrests of the movement’s supporters and functionaries in Operation Brother Keeper, which later escalated into the Gaza war. Yet the first post-war poll among Palestinians shows a tremendous leap in support for Hamas in the West Bank – not least because despite the terrible toll in life and property, Israel is now indirectly negotiating with Hamas on much more immediate changes to the status quo, such as easing the blockade on Gaza and expanding the coastal enclave’s fishing zone. The most significant development Abbas’s non-violent tactics appear to have produced on the ground in the West Bank this summer is this most recent land grab.

In the end, even if Netanyahu’s timing was good – at least as far as global condemnation is concerned — the price Israel ultimately pays may be high, and payback might come sooner than he bargained for.

PHOTO: An Israeli flag flies on a hill near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Elazar, near Bethlehem March 17, 2013. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 

27 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The route of Israel towards a lasting peace .A far-sighted choice for the next centuries.

Posted by Paperino | Report as abusive

Land grabs like this will eventually kill Israel. Maybe not now, but eventually. Israel has had plenty of opportunities to treat Palestinians fairly. This has never happened. Eventually demographics will catch up to the Israelis, and they will reap what they have sown.

Posted by jim_seattle | Report as abusive

Ok, but what business is this of ours?

Posted by _Ethan_ | Report as abusive

Ethan who is Israel’s #1 ally? Who is attached to them at the hip??

And what do the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims think of Israel?

Need I say more.

Posted by Mac20nine | Report as abusive

This just furthers the conflict.

Posted by shillingfarmer | Report as abusive

Netanyahu will never change. He will never treat the Palestinians like humans. It’s time for him and his fellow Nazis to be brought in front of the courts for their crimes.

Posted by MonitorLizard | Report as abusive

Uhh, because they could?

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

The reason is the Israel will think up and reason to steal land. They are like awful spoiled children who created many problems in the Mideast to provide diversion to these land stealing actions. What were those Israeli teens doing in the West Bank at night in the first place. It was only after they called for help and were refused help by the police that they met their demise. It was falsely blamed on Hamas to start the last attack on the Gaza that killed over 2000 people, mostly women and children. Then the story was changed to some ‘other group.’ I suspect that Israel was behind the entire episode and those teens were sacrificed by the Zionism who’s is purpose is indistinguishable from ISIS aims. There are many Israelis who don’t support the invasion or the occupation. The real question in a headline should be: “Why does Israel Continually Get Away with Murder?

Posted by tpvero | Report as abusive

This is the reason Israel’s posturing as a victim lacks any credibility. Holding overwhelming military and economic might, they are slowly but surely settling/confiscating West Bank territory. Then they express outrage when the Palestinians strike at them with such means they have available.

Both sides are culpable in the conflict, but because Israel has greater power and continues to behave provocatively, I hold them more responsible for the failure to achieve a lasting peace.

Posted by distancematters | Report as abusive

This is the result of apartheid……

And we support apartheid, disgusting!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Well I guess the Jews learned about “lebensraum” from the Nazi. Meanwhile our congress will hand over more foreign aid to Israel so the money can be used to bribe Congress. Israel is not interested in peace so all these activities on the diplomatic front is for American consumption. If Israel gets any negative press they just roll another Holocaust film.

Posted by CMEBARK | Report as abusive

What a slanted premise! Israel investigated this and determined that this was not Palestinian land.
I thought that Reuters was news. Your premise is based and sourced from “Peace Now”, hardly an unbiased source.

For all above that mentioned “apartheid”. Please tell me how many Jews live in all the Arab countries combined,

Posted by gofishel | Report as abusive

In a time when the EU is looking for new markets in which to sell produce, of course, there is less interest in buying produce from non-EU entities. This should have nothing to do with the, seemingly, never ending conflict of politics in the Mid-East.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

Well this “land grab” is actually in an area that both Israel and the Palestinians know will be part of Israel within the bounds of a land exchange whenever a peace agreement happens. Stop the hysterics ! If the Arabs had accepted the Palestinian state in 1948 there would have never been any “land grab”. If they didn’t attack the Jews in ’48 ,’56, ’67, and ’73 there would not have been any “land grab” . If the Palestinians had traded land for peace, as Egypt did in ’79 ,and Jordon did, there would be peace today along the ’67 borders. Get a grip !!

Posted by Tibs | Report as abusive

Putin is being punished for land grabs. Netanhayu – well keep going. The world is treating you like you get to do whatever atrocities you want. Great marketing and world propaganda campaign over the last decade.

I just fail to understand why the USA is pouring so much money and technology into this rogue state. Are we Israel? Are we proud of Israel and do we support their values? Have we no shame? Is anything allowed in the name of religion?

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

Israel is forcing itself into a corner. Israel will have only one choice, apartheid or a single state with equal rights for all.

Posted by Gaius_Baltar | Report as abusive

The oppressed has become the oppressor.

Posted by jmad34 | Report as abusive

Tibs is right. Ultimately, Israel must have defensible borders and every sane person knows parts of the so-called West Bank will be part of Israel. Israel gave up the settlements in Gaza and got a torrent of rockets in return. I doubt they will make the same mistake again.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

Ah yes politics where humans, their land and suffering, are the pawns for elections and reelections, and this is not confined to only Israel, as we all know.

Posted by chuck2 | Report as abusive

Hey, Dimi: censorship is for cowards and facists.

Posted by Factoidz | Report as abusive

Just two cents from an ignoramus: why not to try a two-state solution within Israel (like in the United States)? As far as I’ve read, there are a lot of Palestinians working and living in Israel already, and many more dreaming of the same. These are two cousin peoples anyway.

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

I’ll go light on this. Here’s a riddle:

What does a capitalist do when he becomes notorious?
Answer: He capitalizes on his notoriety.

So, Like father, like son.

Posted by Neslihan | Report as abusive

tpvero the Gaza bombings was started by Hamas rockets. Hamas used human shields and many of those civilians were killed. I am not unsympathetic with the conflict on both sides. I think the press publishes far more Palestinian tragedy photos than is reasonable and that is why Hamas sets up rocket launches from schools and civilian areas – photo ops. Unfortunate.

However Israel needs to tell the world how they justify taking land and building settlements on that land. It is fine for right-wing Netanhayu to steal while Obama is busy but in the long term this is not going to work.

Posted by Mandingo | Report as abusive

I don’t see the point of Jewish moving back to Israel from all over the world just to grab a piece of land. Some of them born and raised in US do the move which I don’t believe is a personal choice but more likely an organized one by some institution. Then we see the bad treatment in Russia and on the other side all of the oligarch are Jews .

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Killing children, and stealing land. That is what Israel has become under the war mongering conservatives: murderers and thieves.

Posted by taggert | Report as abusive

More and more I’m getting confused about the difference between the Master Race and the Chosen People.

Posted by justin2013 | Report as abusive

[…] Reider [Reuters] questions why Israel has chosen now to seize 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank. Isabel Kershner […]

Posted by News Roundup and Notes: September 10, 2014 | Just Security | Report as abusive

Tibs, You are 100% correct. Most people do not understand the reality of the situation. They are extremely gullible to the Petro dollar influenced press.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

[…] Go to Original – reuters.com […]

Posted by TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » Israel Appropriated 1,000 Acres of the West Bank. Why Now? | Report as abusive