By Mel Frykberg
ISSAWEYA, Occupied East Jerusalem, Dec 20, 2010 (IPS) – More and more Palestinians are paying the price for deadlocked talks over Israel’s continued settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Muhammad Robin Alyyan, 27, from the volatile Issaweya suburb of East Jerusalem, stands next to piles of rubble and twisted metal. This is all that remains of his, and his two brothers’ printing business. It was a business that took ten years of hard work and their combined life savings to build into a profitable enterprise. The Alyyans’ printing premises together with a number of other Palestinian homes and properties in occupied East Jerusalem were bulldozed and demolished by Israeli security forces last month because they allegedly did not have a building permit.
Human rights organisations have documented how notoriously difficult it is for Palestinians to obtain the documents. They argue that Israel does this deliberately while encouraging illegal Jewish settlements to tip demographics in favour of a Jewish majority.
“We lost over 200,000 dollars in a few hours. My wife is seven months pregnant. I don’t know how I will support her or the baby. Where am I going to get another job? There is high unemployment amongst Palestinians in the city. My brothers have six children and their wives to support as well,” Alyyan told IPS.
During the demolition Alyyan says he was handcuffed, beaten up and pepper- sprayed in the face by Israeli border police. A week’s subsequent rioting in Issaweya saw 15 people injured with several hospitalised. One young man lost an eye after he was hit with a rubber-coated metal bullet.
The Israeli authorities have carried out a wave of Palestinian home demolitions and evictions across the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last few weeks, leaving dozens more Palestinians homeless. Tenders for construction of hundreds more illegal settler units in East Jerusalem have been published.
Groups of Israeli settlers entered two East Jerusalem apartments recently, evicting the family from one of the apartments, under police escort. Further clashes between Palestinian youths and security forces broke out shortly thereafter. An Israeli court later criticised the Israeli police for facilitating the entry of the settlers while the legal ownership of one of the properties was still disputed.
Both the apartments were purchased by Lowell Investments, a company set up by right-wing settler group Elad which specialises in taking over Palestinian land and assets in East Jerusalem.
While Palestinians in East Jerusalem were being evicted, Israeli bulldozers and security forces demolished Palestinian homes and property in the Jordan Valley, the south Hebron Hills and the northern and central West Bank.
White house officials recently offered the Jewish state a large incentives package to extend for three months a settlement moratorium which ended in September.
The package included 20 F-35 fighter jets, a security package which includes emergency stores for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), a 205 million dollar grant to purchase Iron Dome Systems, and a significant stepping up of joint missile defence training programmes.
Also thrown into the bargain was a U.S. pledge to veto any UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel and to ward off attempts by the PA to take the case for Palestinian statehood to the UN. The Israeli government turned the offer down.
This led former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a veteran of Mideast politics, Dan Kurtzer, to comment in an article in the Washington Post that the U.S. was “rewarding Israel for bad behaviour” and that the whole deal was “a bad idea”.
These developments have exacerbated the PA’s already tenuous position. It is only by the slimmest of margins that the PA continues to cling to power, backed by massive foreign aid and a ubiquitous security presence which monitors all criticism and political opposition.
One option is that “the PA is considering is to take the case for Palestinian statehood directly to the UN bypassing both Israel and the U.S.,” Dr Samir Awad from Birzeit Universitiy, near Ramallah, tells IPS. “PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has been working on establishing a state by August 2011.”
“The plan has been two years in the making and has involved the building of statehood institutions with growing support from members of the international community. Negotiations are going nowhere. The PA has to find alternative routes to statehood, including but not limited to the UN option.”