Thursday, July 15, 2010

Short and Sweet, NYT's Ethan Bronner just debunked the settlement freeze

Last time I talked about Ethan Bronner, a reporter covering Israel and Palestine (objectively) who also has a son in the IDF, I generally attempted to sully his name. He's not all bad it turns out:

New York Times Chief Jerusalem Correspondent Ethan Bronner, who is known more for his vague, apologetic language with regard to Israel's settlement enterprise, than his ruthless investigative reporting has a short but damning assessment of Israel's 10-month settlement "freeze," entitled "Despite Settlement Freeze, Buildings Rise."

Bronner does not mince words and calls out Netanyahu for describing the faux freeze as "exceptional." He confirms that in most of the West Bank (not to mention East Jerusalem, which the freeze never was extended to) building has continued as normal if not actually increased due to settler fears about the freeze.

Bronner mentions that 29 settlements are in violation of the freeze, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry. The Ministry, according to Bronner claims that it will increase demolition orders on illegally built structures but that is improbable, considering the Defense Ministry has rarely ever taken such a hard line (what a hard line to take, asking people to obey the laws) with the settlers. Recently, the Defense Ministry has even attempted to retroactively approve settlement outposts illegally built (according to Israeli law, they're all illegal according to international law) on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Ethan Bronner also points out that the freeze bizarrely didn't apply to 3000 housing units and that in one particular region (Shomron Regional Council), the planning committee had approved 10 times the amount of construction projects in anticipation of the freeze. These projects have continued unabated through the freeze.

Bronner puts the icing on the cake, goes rogue, and destroys an Israeli talking point by asserting that the pace of building since the freeze is not substantially different from the pace of the last three years (when the Israeli government was actively pursuing a policy of increased settlement activity).

Finally, he warns that unless Netanyahu extends the 10-month settlement "freeze," no actual decline in settlement building in the West Bank will occur. So much for Netanyahu's confidence building measure...

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