An Israeli team with military vehicles tore down the only mosque of Mafqarra village for the second time in two years and arrested eight Palestinians. The mosque was destroyed after the visit of European Union diplomats to the village, considering the demolishing as an Israeli challenge to the countries that stood beside the Palestinian right. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was sending a message to the world, including Germany, that two states solution is not a part of his plan.
The announcement of plans to build 3,000 new homes in the particularly delicate 'E1' area east of Jerusalem is another kind of punishment that Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to inflict to Palestinians, and is likely to lead to long-term international isolation of Israel. The housing plans would essentially divide the West Bank into two halves and largely cut off the Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which they want to make the capital of their future state.
Britain and France denied reports on Monday that they were considering recalling their ambassadors from Israel, though both nations, in addition to Sweden, did vent their anger by summoning the Israeli ambassadors to voice their concerns.
On Tuesday, cooler heads seem to be prevailing. British Foreign Secretary William Hague ruled out the possibility of European sanctions on Israel. "I don't think there is enthusiasm around the European Union … about economic sanctions in Europe on Israel," he said. "I don't believe there would be anywhere near a consensus nor is that our approach." France too has indicated that it would not pursue sanctions.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who expects to meet Israeli Prime Mnister, Benjamin Netanyahu, today, is extremely concerned. It is believed that Angela Merkel would chide Netanyahu in private rather than openly.
Still, anger is widespread in Europe at the Israeli plan, announced shortly after the United Nations voted last week to grant the Palestinians '' non-member observer status, essentially recognizing a state of Palestine. In addition to the settlement program, Israel also announced it would withhold more than $100 million in tax revenue due the Palestinians this month in response.
The Palestinians, too, are seeking to use their newfound status to exert pressure on Israel to halt the settlement expansion plan. Having been granted UN observer status, the Palestinians now have access to the International Criminal Court -- and on Tuesday they threatened to pursue war crimes charges against Israel should the construction go ahead.
One can only encourage the chancellor to use Netanyahu's planned construction of settlements in the West Bank as an opportunity to take the hardliner to task. Because what Netanyahu is planning makes a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians impossible.
The construction of settlements has long been the source of discord in the Middle East conflict. But Netanyahu wants more.
Anyone who gives up on the Palestinian goal of an independent state is arguing against European interests. Of course, a German chancellor must choose her words carefully, given the background of Nazi history. But it is exactly this history that obligates Germany to criticize the repressive measures taken by a government like Netanyahu's.
Netanyahu wants to punish the Palestinians because President Mahmoud Abbas applied for 'non-member observer state' status at the United Nations…. But Israel's settlements on Palestinian land are a violation of international law, against which the Palestinians could take action within the framework of the United Nations.
With his approach, Netanyahu isn't just awaking the suspicion that he is not interested in resuming peace negotiations. Rather, his government is creating facts on the ground indicating a creeping annexation of the West Bank. The prime minister is provoking both the Palestinians and the international community.
If the international community, including Germany, want to prevent the door to peace from closing completely, they should try to persuade Netanyahu to change his strategy from punishment to negotiation.
This is typical of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, but it's not clever. Revenge is never a good counselor -- and in the end the damage to Israel could be greater than to the Palestinians.
The government in Jerusalem has long since gotten used to protests from all over the world against every new settler home it builds. Even though international law forbids the settlement of the Jewish population on Palestinian land occupied since 1967, around half a million Israelis live there now. Breaking the law has long since become routine -- and has even become a ritual with which every Palestinian transgression is punished. But this time, Israel hasn't just punished the Palestinians -- it has defied the whole world.
Of the 193 UN member states, only eight voted together with Israel against elevating the status of the Palestinians. That very clearly shows the growing isolation of the Jewish state. Psychologically, the fact that Israel should dare to show the global community the finger after such a vote can probably only be explained as a mixture of defiance and megalomania.
It's up to Israel's friends, one of them is Germany, to show Netanyahu where the limits lie. Protests alone will evaporate -- nothing less than the withdrawal of the announced plan is warranted now. If Netanyahu isn't prepared to do that, he and his voters should know that he risks losing the support of the last remaining allies. Angela Merkel has the opportunity to convey this to the Israeli premier at their dinner today.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
Photo: A. Merkel & B. Netanyahu, photo-archive AFP.