While distracting the world by parading silly diagrams of cartoon bombs around the UN and exaggerating the Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to approve legislation on illegal settlements in the West Bank. From the Guardian:
The Israeli cabinet may approve the legalisation of unauthorised Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank, in a move likely to further damage peace prospects and result in censure from the international community.
The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has indicated his intention to put sections of a government-commissioned report to a cabinet vote. However, the attorney general is reported to be opposed to the move before next year's election. A spokesman for the prime minister said: "No decisions have been taken yet."
Netanyahu is believed to be under pressure from extreme rightwing pro-settler elements within his party, Likud, in the runup to the election on 22 January. Israel Radio reported that the prime minister had instructed the cabinet secretary to draft a motion endorsing sections of the 89-page Levy report, which was published in July.
Incredibly the Levy report rejects the international legal consensus that the West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, and claims that the fourth Geneva convention does not apply to the West Bank as it is not technically a 'foreign territory' under the sovereignty of another state. If Netanyahu approves this legislation - set to go to a cabinet vote, the consequences will be catastrophic to what remains of the peace process. There is much opposition to this within the Israeli government itself, defense minister Ehud Barak stating:
Adopting the report will not bolster the settlement in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank], it will merely undermine Israel's diplomacy efforts and further isolate Israel from the world.
The fact that politicians further to the Right of the fanatical Netanyahu have this type of influence over Israeli government policy is alarming to say the least, and it does not bode well for the statehood aspirations of the Palestinians. It's hard to see how the peace process can move forward under the Netanyahu government without serious pressure from the United States.
There's a chance that should Obama win a second term, he will start to exert real force on the Israelis to take the peace process seriously. Given Netanyahu's flagrant disregard for him during his first term, it is a possibility that Obama will look to exact revenge. But given the United State's consistently one sided approach to the conflict, it isn't all that likely regardless of what Obama might want to do. The result? More misery for the Palestinians, more isolation for Israel, and more problems for the United States. It's a vicious cycle that either America or Israel can stop in the blink of an eye, leaving the world wondering why on earth they don't do a damn thing.