Israeli settlement actions stir outrage

The Israeli Knesset voted to “legalize” thousands of housing units in the West Bank on Monday, bringing condemnation from other gulf nations as well as other countries and members of the United Nations.

The Daily Star of Lebanon reported that human rights advocates and other officials are worried that by granting legal status to the units – known as “outposts” or “wildcat” communities because they are not authorized by Israel – it is also setting up the possibility of expansion into and eventual annexation of the West Bank.

European Union representative Federica Mogherini told the Kuwait News Agency that Israel’s actions run counter to its previous commitments, and that legislation on the settlements constitutes a major overreach on Israel's part.

"In passing this new law, the Israeli parliament has legislated on the legal status of land within occupied territory, which is an issue that remains beyond its jurisdiction," Mogherini said.

The Knesset’s move follows in the wake of Israel’s recent announcement that it intends to develop new settlements, despite a resolution by the U.N. Security Council that condemned settlements already in place.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, said settlement construction would put Middle East peace plans in danger. Saudi Arabia's cabinet has also condemned new settlements, calling construction “aimed at Judaization of large parts of East Jerusalem.” It also warned that such a move would hurt peace efforts.

For more about the unprecedented move by Israel, the Gulf News Journal spoke with Kenneth West, a grassroots activist and geopolitical scholar in Charlottesville, Virginia. West is working on a print and film project featuring historical characterizations of the “12th Imam,” which aims to promote world peace by helping to avert international conflicts.

“It's not good,” West said about the Israeli decision. He said such unilateral action might be used by Iran to justify military action, which he said could come in the form of an “electromagnetic pulse (EMP),” a new kind of weaponized technology that can knock out all digital communications in an area.

“The only thing that the Iranians are scared of is Israel’s nuclear capabilities,” West said.

A first-strike EMP, he said, could be intended to turn the playing field to Iran's advantage, since Israeli weapons typically depend on computerization.

“Everything that they’ve got has a chip in it,” West said.

Potential military escalations aside, many officials in the region and elsewhere are decrying a move away from traditional peace planning to resolve a thorny geopolitical issue that has been front and center in global policy initiatives for a long time.