September 26th marked the end of 10 month Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlements. Since that date the media has reported anywhere between 540 & 600 new houses in the process of being built on the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli settlers. This will inevitably increase tensions between Israel the Palestinians and damage the US led peace talks.
The Palestinian authority is opposed to all the Gaza settlements and has threatened to leave the peace talks if the moratorium is not continued. At the time of writing the Palestinians have left the talks and they won’t return unless the Israelis agree to freeze future settlements.
The Israelis meanwhile are playing down the impact of the Jewish settlements, saying that the peace settlement is the most important thing. But the Israelis have made the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a precondition for any freeze on Jewish settlements. This is guaranteed to stall any peace talks. Israel also wants a demilitarised Palestine as pre-condition.
Meanwhile in Umm al-Fahm, an Israeli Arab town, the Israeli authorities allowed a march of the right wing Israeli nationalist group, Kach. The march was heavily protected by the police who fired tear gas and stun grenades at the Arab protesters, who were hurling stones at the demonstration.
The US has only just got the two parties back to the negotiation table after 20 months. After the election of Obama the US bourgeoisie re-orientated its foreign policy towards the Middle East. It recognised that it couldn’t afford to fight big conflicts on several fronts and ignore international opinion. One of the biggest barriers is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The US decided to go against its previous unconditional support for Israel and push more strongly for the creation of a Palestinian state. The USA’s plans took a blow with the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister.
The US has been weakened by its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decline in power of the US is shown in Israel’s unwillingness to fall into line with US plans.