Israel has recently planned for another 2,500 settlements on the Palestinian occupied West Bank. The expansion of settlements has been controversial since its start in 1967 because of its effect on Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.
Obama’s recent choice to abstain from a U.N. vote against Israeli settlement reflects two traditionally held, yet competing values of the U.S. government: the support of Israel and the disagreement with the expansion of settlements.
Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., explained in a press conference that Obama’s decision is in keeping with all previous presidents since 1967 because of the way “continued settlement building seriously undermines Israel’s security.”
The root issue is the contradiction between what Israel says and what Israel does. Israel claims to desire a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians coexist as neighbors. However, Power believes the Israeli government’s continued action to support settlements seriously undermines Israeli and Palestinian relations.
Ted Swedenburg, professor of anthropology and scholar of Palestinian and Middle Eastern culture at the University of Arkansas, commented, “first, the territory in which Israel is settling is a military occupation. How would you like living under a military occupation? Palestinian locals do not want to be militarily occupied. Second, Israel’s continued settlements in their militarily occupied region violates international law. If you occupy land militarily, you can’t settle there.”
Swedenburg emphasized the need to consider the fear of military conflict that Palestinian civilians living near the Israeli settlements experience daily.
Swedenburg also identified a phenomenon resulting from the Israeli settlements: the development of private, “ideological settlements.” These kinds of settlements, established by private citizens who believe in Israel’s divine right to the land, are built by private funding in areas that may not be suitable for civilian populations. These settlements are not initially recognized by the Israeli government, yet are often given approval after they are built. These settlements pose a greater threat to Palestinians than government-subsidized settlements because of the lack of regulation and because the settlers involved are often armed citizens.
Many see Obama’s choice to abstain from the vote as a lack of support for Israel.
Dante Duran, junior electrical engineering major, said “that the number of sanctions against Israel compared to the number of sanctions against other Middle Eastern nations for human rights violations is unfair.”
Duran also said that the motives for the many U.N. resolutions against Israel are initiated by nations who disagree with the democratic and social progress in Israel, at the least.