Israeli settlements a thorn

Updated: 2011-09-30 08:17

(China Daily)

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While the Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations is being considered by the UN Security Council, Israel's latest plan to build settlements in east Jerusalem will cost that country more political and moral standing and embarrass its supporters on the world stage.

When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas formally presented the application to the world body on Friday, disregarding the strong opposition from Israel and the United States, opponents predicted that the move would ignite a new round of violence in a region beset by decades of bloodshed.

In the past week, however, the Palestinian response has been largely restrained. But now that Israel has moved boldly on the settlement issue, there is every reason to believe it will cause more bloodshed because it has touched a nerve on a very sensitive issue for Palestinians.

The US, Israel's main ally, has repeatedly said the Palestinian's bid for UN state membership could only be addressed through direct talks between the two rivals.

Given that the Palestinians have set the suspension of Jewish settlement-building as a precondition for talks, Israel's latest move does not signal its sincere interest in restarting dialogue.

The US was clearly embarrassed by the new Israeli settlements. It expressed frustration on Tuesday, and this was interpreted as a sign of renewed tension between the allies.

During the decades the US has mediated the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Washington has been partial to Israel. It has vowed to veto the Palestine bid in the Security Council despite the fact that the Palestinian cause has won support from a majority in the world community.

Israel's new settlement plans will cost the two allies more moral standing and leave them more isolated on the issue.

Due to the US' veto threat, the Palestinian quest is now impossible. Nonetheless, the Security Council looks set to consider it on Friday. This is a necessary step required by its procedural rules.

It is believed the process could take weeks before it comes to a final vote, when the US is expected to wield its veto.

Palestine has been an observer in the world body since 1974 with limited participation and no voting rights. In contrast, Israel has been a full member since 1949.

After 20 years of fruitless peace talks sponsored by the US, Palestinians see the land they want to build a state upon being eroded by relentless Israeli settlement expansion. They view the UN quest as a non-violent way to get their rights back. The majority of the world community has shown sympathy for their plight.

No matter what results the Palestine bid in the UN yields, it has aroused greater awareness by putting the issue on the international community's table.

(China Daily 09/30/2011 page8)