Opinion / Editorials

Irresponsible Israel

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-26 07:15

The United Nations' admission of Palestine as a non-member observer state last month must have brought joy to the thousands of Palestinians who gathered in Bethlehem to celebrate this year's Christmas Eve on Monday. Yet, such joy could be overshadowed by Israel's quickened expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

On Monday, Israeli authorities approved the construction of 1,242 housing units in Gilo, East Jerusalem. This is just part of a series of recently announced Israeli construction plans involving thousands of housing units in different areas in lands Israel annexed during the Arab-Israeli War in 1967.

The renewed wave of Jewish settlement construction, which was originally frozen after it was widely condemned by the international community last year, is intended as retaliation to the Palestinians' successful UN bid on Nov 29.

Israel's plan for settlement expansion has naturally met with vehement condemnation from the international community, which hoped Palestine's successful UN bid would be an opportunity to restart the Middle East peace process.

Peace talks between the two rivals hit a snag in 2010 due to Israel's expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Since then, the Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt settlement construction before negotiations can resume, regarding the continued settlement building a show of bad faith.

Israel's irresponsible move adds more difficulty to international efforts that aim to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. It will further distance the two rivals and sow the seeds of enmity deeper.

It is noteworthy that the United States, Israel's closest ally, has used especially harsh language to criticize Israel, accusing it of engaging in a "pattern of provocative action". Nonetheless, a verbal rebuke is far from enough as many in the world arena believe the US' long-term backing to Israel has emboldened the latter to take one reckless move after another.

The fact that Palestine won a landslide victory in its UN bid should drive home the message that the US partiality to Israel has become increasingly unpopular. The strong opposition from members of the world community against Israel's new settlement plan is also a clear signal that patience with Israel is wearing thin.

As a country that claims to have a stake in the peace and stability of the Middle East, the US should take concrete steps to rein in Israel and help create conditions for the resumption of the Middle East peace process.

(China Daily 12/26/2012 page10)

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