by Khaled Amayreh
While Israel keeps urging the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume largely discredited peace talks, Tel Aviv is continuing unabated the expansion of Jewish colonies throughout the West Bank.
Disingenuous as they are, Israeli calls for resuming peace talks are apparently aimed at giving the impression that the Palestinians, not Israel, is the party impeding efforts to revive the stalled process.
However, for Palestinians at least, facts on the ground speak louder than public relations.
In recent weeks, the Israeli government, arguably the most extremist since the creation of the Israeli state, decided to build thousands of additional settler units in the central West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, the so-called Planning and Building Committee has been considering a plan to build a "park" in the heart of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Al-Mukaber in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials as well as peace-minded Israelis insist the planned park is nothing but a ruse to set up a new settlement designed to besiege Arab demographic growth in the occupied city.
"The plan is aimed at strangulating Arab presence in Jerusalem," says Khalil Tufakji, a prominent Jerusalemite cartographer. "They hope this will kill any possibility for building a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."
Israel is also planning to build some 4000 settler units in the Silwan neighbourhood south of the occupied Arab city.
US Vice President Joe Biden protested the plan last year. However, the Israeli government waited a few months until the issue was forgotten before reviving the plan.
Israeli pundits seemed convinced that US officials critical of Israeli settlement activities don't really mean what they say and that in any case they are not capable of acting on statements critical of Israel given Israeli clout and influence on domestic American politics.
Israel also calculates, seeming correctly, that the Obama administration will not undermine its own re-election chances at home by pressuring Israel to rethink its settlement expansion plans.
The intensive expansion of settlements in the West Bank has coincided with a serious escalation of Jewish terrorist activities against Palestinians and their property. The wave of terror and vandalism included, among other things, kidnapping Palestinian villagers and shepherds, torching Palestinian olive groves, and denying access to Palestinian traffic.
This week, Jewish settlers kidnapped a Palestinian shepherd near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Eyewitnesses said the settlers also seized 50 of the man's sheep. Normally, the Israeli occupation army, which controls the area, doesn't take meaningful action against settlers who attack Palestinians and vandalise their property with impunity.
As for the Israeli justice system, it deals quite lightly with settlers as many of the judges in Israeli courts are ideologically affiliated with the religious Zionist camp, or the settler camp.
This week, Israel decided to transfer to the PA the sum of $100 million dollars, which the Israeli government withheld earlier this month in an effort to bully the PA leadership into reconsidering efforts to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by international organisations such as the UN.
According to the Israeli media, Israel released the money after German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with halting a German plan to deliver a submarine to Israel if the latter refused to resume the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.
According to a report published in the right-wing Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, Israel yielded to pressure from Berlin and unfroze the Palestinian funds.
Germany reportedly announced it would build and pay up to one-third of the cost of a sixth Dolphin-class submarine to be delivered to the Israeli navy.
The agreement stipulated that Germany would pay the sum of 135 million Euros in partial financing of the deal.
The submarine will cost between 372 million and 520 million Euros. Defense experts believe the submarine will enhance Israel's second-strike capability since it can carry nuclear weapons.
Merkel has repeatedly appealed to Netanyahu to unlock the peace process, only to be met with prevarication from the Israeli premier.
Meanwhile, some Israeli officials have been voicing their anxiety over the initial results of the Egyptian elections; with the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak admitting that Israel didn't like the ostensible victory of Islamists in the first round of the parliamentary poll.
Barak said he hoped that Israel's partners and friends in Cairo would retain significant influence that would keep the cold peace between Israel and the largest Arab country "as warm as possible".
Some Israeli commentators are already referring to the Egyptian elections results as a "nightmare coming true," bringing to the fore Israel's worst fears.
David Buki, a pro-settler commentator, lashed out at those Western powers that advocated and pressed for democracy in the Arab world. "When you give a Muslim a free voice in electing his leaders, he will pick an Islamist leadership every time because that is what he knows and appreciates."
"Israel's worst fears regarding its relationship with the Arab world -- and with Egypt in particular -- are coming true before our eyes. The rise of the Islamists in Egypt means the end of the peace treaty with Egypt and the rise of a government committed to the ideological Islamist goal of the destruction of Israel."
The Israeli commentator ignored the fact that Israel is made up of several fascist parties advocating discrimination and apartheid and even genocide against non-Jews.
Earlier this year, the spiritual mentor of Shas, a main coalition partner in the current Israeli government, was quoted as saying during a Sabbath homily in West Jerusalem that all non-Jews were very much like donkeys who were created by the Almighty on two legs so that they will serve the master race, the chosen people -- Jews.
Some rabbis have gone so far as permitting a Jew to murder a non-Jew in order to extract his organs if the Jew needs them.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|