We are advised by the Jewish Labor Committee of an opinion piece by its president, Stuart Appelbaum (who is also president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, CLC). He expresses his support for the massive protests for social justice now convulsing Israel. At the same time, he notes that the expenditures for subsidized housing, new infrastructure and security outlays to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are draining Israel of the resources needed to provide affordable housing and a more equitable and just society for Israelis who live within its internationally recognized Green Line boundaries:
…. we at the Jewish Labor Committee cannot help but connect the issues [raised by the massive demonstrations in Israel for a more just society] with the expensive burden of the settlements in the West Bank, and the unresolved occupation of that territory. The political as well as financial necessity to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has been clear to us for some time. Yet, in a cynical attempt to appease the unrest over the shortage of affordable housing and simultaneously satisfy the parties opposed to ending the occupation, the Israeli Government has authorized the construction of 277 new housing units in the West Bank community of Ariel, and 1,600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, 930 housing units in Har Homa – the latter two being communities in disputed areas in East Jerusalem.
It is with the utmost concern for Israel and the prospect for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and a fair and just negotiated two-state solution, that the Jewish Labor Committee opposes the recent decisions of the Netanyahu Administration to authorize this construction. We join with those within Israel and abroad calling for the Netanyahu Government to freeze the authorization, development and construction of new housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and for such agencies as the World Zionist Organization to similarly halt the construction and expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line.
We agree with the many critics of such construction, in the U.S., Israel and the international community, that the expansion of these communities in Jerusalem and settlements in the West Bank is an obstacle to the much-needed resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The announcement of their authorization by the Netanyahu Government aggravates relations between Israel and its allies, as well as between Israel and the Palestinians. The expansion of Ramat Shlomo and Har Homa, only make a bad situation worse in terms of the challenge of Jerusalem. The cost of not only building the new housing units in Ariel but protecting the entire settlement enterprise in the West Bank is both a political and financial drain on Israeli society at a time when clearly a different path must be followed.”
His entire article can be read at the JLC’s website.