Michael Jansen
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
April 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli amendments to standing military orders that took effect last Tuesday were fresh punitive measures in a long line of destructive and illegal acts designed to deny Palestinians their basic human rights.

The orders, signed by Major General Gadi Shamni, former commander of Israel's armed forces in the West Bank, broaden the interpretation of "infiltrator" to mean anyone who does not have a valid Israeli residence permit, and expand the powers of Israeli forces to deal with anyone they decide is a "security threat".

One of the amended orders was adopted in 1969 to deal with Palestinians entering the West Bank and Gaza clandestinely to mount resistance operations against the occupation, which began in 1967. The other is security related. Taken together, they could be used to classify Palestinians as "infiltrators" and to jail or deport them.

The orders do not define what Israel means by residence permits. Would such permits be documents other than the current blue and orange identity cards Palestinians carry?

According to Israeli human rights organisation HaMoked, the orders will be first used to deport to Gaza Palestinians with Gaza identity cards and their children born in the West Bank. The next targets will be foreign spouses of Palestinians and Palestinians living in the West Bank who have had their residency permits, withdrawn by the Israeli authorities for various reasons, including lengthy stays abroad for study or work. These people will be sent abroad and thereby lose their right to live in Palestine.

The measures could also be used against Palestinians involved in popular protests against land confiscations and the West Bank wall, and other political activity.

HaMoked warns that in theory, the amended orders could be used against "the vast majority of [Palestinians] now living in the West Bank [who] have never been required to hold any sort of permit to be present therein". Deportation orders can be executed within 72 hours, making it impossible for those designated for deportation to appeal.

HaMoked observes that the orders could be used to "turn all residents of the West Bank into criminals who may be imprisoned for up to seven years or deported from the area". The organisation says tens of thousands of Palestinians could be at risk of imprisonment and/or deportation.

The orders are in flagrant contravention of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states: "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

Ever since the founding of the Zionist movement, it has advocated policies effecting "transfer" to rid Palestine of Palestinians.

Influential Palestinians have complained, Israel's liberal daily Haaretz wrote a critical editorial, and a few Western newspapers carried articles about the measures. But there has been no public rebuke from the US or a European power. What, then, will be done about these measures?

Almost certainly nothing.

Israel has long followed a strategy of creating multiple challenges in order to confound peacemakers and evade sanctions for egregious violations of human rights, as well as for waging wars of aggression on the Palestinians and neighbouring countries. Pugnacious Israel is well aware that if it piles up enough illegal and punitive policies, the world will focus on one or two and let Israel get on with carrying out others. But the world will never end the Israeli-Arab conflict if powerful governments do not address the entire range of Israeli challenges.

At present, the Obama administration - the only power on the face of the globe that can curb Israel's actions - is focused on its colonisation activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and getting Israel to agree to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority on the emergence of a Palestinian state. So far, the US has, according to Haaretz, compelled the rightist government of Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to "put on hold" construction in colonies both in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is a minor achievement that is swamped by a range of actions which must be addressed before Israel can be reined in and compelled to comply with international law and acceptable norms of behaviour.

For instance, Washington, which convened a nuclear summit of 47 countries early this week, is under pressure from this region to deal with another difficult problem posed by Israel: the atmosphere of threat created by Israel's 250-500 nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. Netanyahu was invited to attend but absented himself from the meeting so that he would not come under renewed pressure to declare Israel's weapons, agree to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and, ultimately, disarm.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rightly observed that Iran is condemned for its nuclear programme, which has produced no weapons and is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, while Israel does whatever it wants.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the world faces the dire possibility that terrorists could obtain nuclear material, governments in this region believe that Israel's arsenal is a far greater danger.

On the one hand, Israel could use tactical nuclear weapons against Iran if Tehran continues with its nuclear programme or employ the threat to use nuclear weapons to blackmail the US and other Western powers into giving in to Israel's colonisation of Palestine and denial of Palestinian rights.

Some influential people in Washington apparently believe the only way to ensure that Israel changes its behaviour may be "regime change".

In an article published in The Los Angeles Times this week, Aaron David Miller points out that if the Obama administration does meddle in Israeli politics with the aim of effecting ‘regime change’, it would not be the first time. Miller, who advised both Democratic and Republican administrations, pointed out that in 1991, the US exerted pressure on then premier Yitzhak Shamir to halt colonisation by denying Israel loan guarantees to help settle the flood of Russian Jews arriving in Israel. A year later, Shamir was ousted by Yitzhak Rabin whose Labour Party won a majority on a peace ticket. In 1996, Bill Clinton attempted to boost the electoral prospects of Shimon Peres who lost by a narrow margin to Netanyahu.

However, the replacement of Shamir by Rabin did not bring peace. Although Rabin accepted the Oslo Accord in 1993, he did not implement its provisions and destroyed the peace process before it got off the ground.

One Israeli commentator told this correspondent that this would happen if the US failed to exert pressure on Rabin to pull out of the occupied Palestinian territories and reach a final deal with Yasser Arafat. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration did not follow through until the last days it was in power. Then its efforts were too little, too late.

Then as now, Israel was pursuing so many destructive policies - particularly colonisation - that the US failed to cope. Consequently, the best opportunity for peace ever offered was lost. This being the case, the only way to tackle Israel is to end Israel's occupation of all Arab territories seized in 1967 and bring forth a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Imposing a settlement based on the 2002 Arab land-for-peace plan will address most of the problems Israel's occupation policies create. Once a deal on an end to the occupation has been reached, the issue of Israel's nukes and the threat posed by its regional military hegemony can be addressed.


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