Hamas leader Khaled Meshal traveled to Cairo on 6 September, and many optimistic Israelis thought it was to sign the final deal for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Instead, the Hamas leader claimed the deal was far from over, and urged the Arab states not to rush to peace with Israel. This is a truly adverse effect for Israel resulting from Netanyahu’s move with regard to settlements.
Netanyahu approved the building of hundreds of new buildings in existing settlements on 5 September, in a move that was meant to bring his conservative coalition back to his side after agreeing to temporarily halt settlement growth to allow for US peace efforts. A settlement freeze is set to take place within the next month, after this approval goes through. Netanyahu has a better chance to get the conservatives in the Knesset to approve a settlement construction suspension if he allows new buildings to be built just before the indefinite freeze takes effect. However, now, due to this expansion approval, Hamas has the ammo to spread anti-peace sentiments to the Arab countries.
Of course, no Arab country is in a position right now to stand against the West in its endeavors here, but its not the governments that Hamas is appealing to. It is not possible for the Arabs to make peace with Israel, no matter how much it might help them militarily or economically, until there is a peace with the Palestinians. Otherwise, the dropping of the Palestinian cause would lead to riots and terrorism against the current Arab regimes. (Just last week, a Saudi prince was lightly wounded in an attempted suicide-bomb assassination, a sign of growing discontent among Saudis of their leadership). Instead, Hamas is appealing to the people of the Arab world for support. This is a primary example of the type of Iranian influence making its way to this side of the Persian Gulf, and is exactly what Obama intends to use to pressure his peace process here.
Netanyahu needs to appease those Knesset members who would be otherwise opposed to the freeze, and he also can’t let Jews turn into refugees in the West Bank. However, the clout this move gives to Hamas is dangerous, especially because it also somewhat humiliates the PA, who needs to be bolstered as much as possible so long as they are the opposition to Hamas and support the two-state solution.
The settlements can be looked at in two ways. One is the idea of Jews living in a future Palestinian state, which is the position commonly taken by many Knesset members. The other, however, is that the settlement growth under occupation is turning the entire land between the river and the sea into a de facto single, bi-national state. The latter is a grim scenario.
If this land becomes a bi-national single state, then the Jewish state not only ceases to exist, but the policies currently in place to protect Israelis from terrorism have to be removed, or else the democratic nature of the state is sacrificed, and greater Israel inexorably becomes an apartheid state. I personally refuse to be a part of that state, and I don’t want to be here if it is overthrown, either.
It is in the interest of all people here to execute the two-state solution before it, and the Jewish state, disappear.