Israeli soldiers/Palestinian children
© n/aIsraeli soldiers detain Palestinian children
One of the claims being made to justify Israel's demand for a blank cheque to attack Iran is that the Islamic Republic poses an ''existential threat'' to the Jewish state in view of its statements about wanting to wipe Israel off the map.

This lie has been repeated so often that it has become the truth. The real truth, as always, is quite different: It is Israel which is wiping Palestine off the map, day by day, slowly but surely, one settlement at a time.

Here are the real facts:

On Feb 22 this year, Israeli authorities legalised the unauthorised settler outpost of Shvut Rachel in the northern West Bank and approved a plan for 500 new homes there. The plan was approved by the higher planning council of the Israeli civil administration, the military body that manages civilian affairs for most of the West Bank.

According to one report, the committee agreed to retroactively legalise approximately 100 homes already built there, as well as 95 homes without permits in the nearby settlement of Shilo, which has 2,000 residents, some 30km south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

The news agency Agence France Presse quoted Mr Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the settlement watchdog group Peace Now, as describing the move as ''one of the biggest projects in the territories''. The decision proved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ''doing everything he could to prevent the creation of two states for two peoples'', Mr Oppenheimer said.

The AFP report said that more than 310,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and the number is growing. Another 200,000 live in a dozen settlement neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Robert Serry, the top United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process, described the Israeli move as ''deplorable'', one that ''moves us further away from the goal of a two-state solution''.

Mr Serry was quoted from a UN statement as saying, ''During his recent visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, the UN Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] reiterated the United Nations well known position that settlement activity is illegal, contrary to Israel's obligations under the road map [to peace] and will not be recognised by the international community.''

During his visit to the occupied territories on Feb 6, Mr Ban had renewed his call for progress in the Middle East peace process, citing the toll taken on the economy and lives of Palestinians by the ongoing Israeli occupation. ''The issue of settlements, which are illegal and hurt prospects for a negotiated solution, clearly has an economic dimension. Settlements and their infrastructure severely restrict access to land and natural resources by the Palestinian people,'' Mr Ban said.

Also on Feb 22, the office of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying it was ''deeply concerned'' by Israel's approval of new construction in the settlements.

The statement said, ''Settlements are illegal under international law. In addition the Quartet road map states that Israel should not only freeze all settlement activity, but also dismantle those settlements erected since March 2001. It is particularly important at this point that neither party in the Middle East peace process undertakes provocative actions which undermine the prospects for continuing the dialogue which was re-established in January. The high representative calls on Israel to respect its obligations under the road map and reverse this decision.''

A more detailed check indicated that the EU had issued a similar statement in September 2011 following an Israeli decision to advance settlement expansion in East Jerusalem with approximately 1,000 new housing units in Gilo. Ms Ashton ''deplored'' that move, too.

Said the earlier statement, ''The EU has repeatedly called on Israel to end all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. Settlement activity threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution and raises questions about Israel's stated commitment to resume negotiations.''

That's not all.

On Feb 23, the Palestinians went public with news of an Israeli plan to transfer land allocated for a future Qalandia airport into an industrial zone. The land, clearly located in occupied territory, is part of the Palestinian Authority's development plans after statehood. The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that the municipality of West Jerusalem had registered the unused land as state land.

It said that the Israeli Airport Authority made a submission to the Israeli municipality, requesting to register the land under its authority at the Israel Land Department.

On Feb 24, the Palestinian government issued a statement saying that this continued step-by-step Israeli expansion ''will kill the two-state solution''. In other words, it will wipe Palestine off the map.

Said the statement, ''The Palestinian government warns that the policies and actions of the [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government seriously prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state due to an irreversible mechanism working daily to create, and altering, facts on the ground in the form of territory, jurisdiction, and development.

''While the Israeli government tirelessly talks about wanting peace and returning to the negotiations table, it is aggressively working on preventing any of the fundamental issues to be negotiated through irreversible facts that obliterate the viability of the two-state solution and the creation of the state of Palestine on 1967 territories.

''The laws of the Israeli occupier continuously legalises what is in contravention with international law and signed agreements through new settlement activity, strengthening control of occupied Jerusalem in a manner that reveals Israel's determination not to relinquish 1967 occupied territory that are the basis for negotiating a two-state solution.

''The international community needs not to be baffled by the Israeli governments sweet talk and seriously review the occupation's belligerent actions,'' concluded the statement.

None of this grabbed headlines in the global media, of course. That's because the world was conveniently distracted by the Syrian uprising, the attacks and would-be attacks on Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilsi, and the continued sabre-rattling over Israel's plan to attack Iran.

Apart from the essentially useless statements deploring and condemning the Israeli expansion, the Jewish state faced no sanctions or any other form of retribution. As this is an election year in the United States, President Barack Obama, who grandiosely told the Islamic world two years ago that Israeli settlement expansion was ''unacceptable'', could do nothing.

Now, Israel wants to attack Iran because it claims Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map. Exactly who is trying to wipe whom off the map? You decide.

Imtiaz Muqbil: Executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire

Source: Bangkok Post