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Opinion

Ten years after Camp David, Israel has made peace even harder

A decade after the failed accords at Camp David, a just peace is still possible, but only if Western leaders act to end Israel’s discriminatory policies toward Palestinians.

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Amir Cheshin, a former senior adviser on “Arab affairs” to the Jerusalem mayor’s office, described in his co-authored book “Separate and Unequal” what he called the “principles” of Israeli housing policy in East Jerusalem: “expropriation of Arab-owned land, development of large Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, and limitations on development in Arab neighborhoods.”

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All of this is openly available information, yet the US and friends of Israel persist in a peace process discourse that does not simply pass silent over Israeli colonization but aids and abets it.

A classic example is Washington’s approach toward Israel’s settlements. For years, Republican and Democratic presidents have warned Israel against further settlement building, but Israel builds anyway. Then, instead of sanctions, the White House typically rewards Israel with affirmations of its “unbreakable bond” with America. The list of settlements that “everyone knows” will remain in Israel’s hands has grown, met by, at best, feeble opposition.

No wonder most observers expect that the settlements will remain in Israeli hands after a negotiated deal with the Palestinians.

In his book “Divided Jerusalem,” historian Bernard Wasserstein cites a 1978 planning scheme for Jerusalem that explicitly outlines “the underlying political motivation” for the city’s development policies – “Every area of the city that is not settled by Jews is in danger of being detached from Israel and transferred to Arab control”.

As radical settler groups expand their presence in areas under occupation, and as the Jerusalem municipality plans further colonization under the guise of “tourism” and “development,” the most that the likes of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton can manage is to describe the destruction of homes as “unhelpful” – the expansion of settlements a “deeply negative signal”.

The constant expansion or consolidation of Israel’s grip on East Jerusalem, like the rest of the West Bank, reveals the ridiculous – or at worst, malign – nature of the official “peace process” that President Obama has faithfully continued.

Rather than demand, and enforce, the implementation of Palestinians’ basic rights and a respect for fundamental tenets of international law, the approach of the United States and European Union is to continue its diplomatic, financial, and military backing for the occupying power – while urging a colonized, stateless people to “negotiate” over the shrinking space of their enclaves.

Ten years after Camp David, a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians is still possible, but only if Western leaders finally act to end Israel’s long-standing policies of separation and inequality.

Ben White, a freelance journalist, is the author of “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.”

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