Getting Serious about Israeli Settlements

In recent days, 60 Minutes has come under attack from pro-Israel groups for its expose on Israel’s West Bank settlements (Clip 1, Clip 2). Today, Ha’aretz reported that the Israeli government has released a new, comprehensive database about its settlements in the West Bank.

“Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements – about 75 percent – construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police
stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.”

The database, which can be accessed online in Hebrew, is the product of two years of work led by Baruch Spiegel. While the initial purpose of the mission was to compile accurate information about the settlements–information which the Israeli government did not have, in part because, presumably for legal reasons, it did not want to know about land appropriation, but some of which the United States and the nonprofit organization Peace Now did.

The release of the information comes at a propitious time, as Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell will soon take a stab at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. Still, if Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel’s Prime Minister, Mitchell shouldn’t set his hopes too high.

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