Israel's announcement of plans for 1,300 new dwellings in East Jerusalem and 800 new ones in the West Bank settlement of Ariel puts a decisive end to the 10-month partial cessation of construction. It is also a clear demonstration of Israeli intentions. In fact, the installation of infrastructure never stopped. The Palestinian chief negotiator, Saab Erekat, says Israel chooses settlements, not peace. The effects of the new construction will be far-reaching. The indirect talks painstakingly brokered by the United States in February and March 2010 must be seen as indefinitely suspended, as they rest on the precondition of an end to further Israeli settlement in the occupied territories. Secondly, Israel's persistent stalling of U.S. calls for a freeze shows that Israel can flout with impunity the principle in international law that all construction in occupied territory is illegal; the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised by any other state. The expressions of concern by President Barack Obama, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the European Union foreign policy representative, Catherine Ashton, are all manifestly futile gestures, which Israel disregards.
In the chorus of international disapproval, which is matched by strident self-justification, it is easy to lose sight of Israeli calculations. For example, the civic authorities almost never grant building permission to long standing Palestinian residents. That makes even modest extensions to Palestinian homes illegal by definition, and the authorities then move hard-line Israeli settlers into the extensions or target the Palestinians' homes for demolition. With breathtaking gall, Ariel's mayor has even petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court for a return of Value Added Tax on the grounds that his township, being across the Green Line from the rest of the West Bank, is not in Israel. If, however, Ariel is ruled to be within Israel, the colonisation spreads further. The Israeli Right also gives Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a smokescreen. The Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has free rein, despite a recent opinion poll showing that 60 per cent of Israeli voters hold him the politician most responsible for an increase in extreme nationalism and near-fascist tendencies. In March, the ultra-orthodox Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced on his own initiative that settlement construction would resume when the so-called freeze expired. Mr. Netanyahu is using Israeli extremists to carry out ethnic cleansing and future generations of Israelis will inherit the terrible legacy.