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Remove the settlements, period!
Palestinians know Jewish settlements are illegal. What is needed are not words but action to enforce on Israel the rule of law, reports Khalid Amayreh from the West Bank
Palestinian leaders have again warned that the unrestrained expansion of Jewish colonies on Arab land is killing all reasonable hopes for peace in the region.
The latest warnings, angrier and more frustrated than usual, coincided with fresh statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other government officials that his government would carry out plans to build as many as 3500 new settler units on confiscated Palestinian land in Arab East Jerusalem.
The implementation of the plan, dubbed "E-1", would completely strangle East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank. Moreover, the phenomenal expansion would cut off the Hebron and Bethlehem regions in the south from the central and northern regions of the West Bank, effectively putting an end to whatever hopes the Palestinians still harbor for a "viable" and "contiguous" state within the 1967 Green Line.
"We don't want to hear words about the illegality of the settlements," said an angry Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei this week. "We want action by the US and the international community and we want it now."
Qurei, in uncompromising language, warned that unless Israel is forced to stop settlement expansion in the West Bank, therefore allowing the creation of a real and viable Palestinian state, "the entire peace process, as well as peace, security and stability in the region and in the world at large, will go to hell."
"If Israel thinks that we will eventually accept the Israeli fait accompli, they are mistaken. We will not and the Palestinian people won't," Qurei said.
Qurei's angry statements came as Israel continued to impose "facts" on the ground. The aggrandisement of settlements, along with an unprecedented wave of harassment and pogrom-like attacks by fundamentalist Jewish settlers against unprotected Palestinian civilians, is convincing most Palestinians that Israel remains insincere about the American-backed roadmap and, for that matter, the entire idea of peace with the Palestinians.
Ariel Sharon, for his part, has never hid his "doubts" about the road map. Israeli "acceptance" of the plan last year was accompanied by 14 reservations, each of which, say observers, is sufficient to corrode the entire plan.