A group of Israeli settlers living illegally in the Palestinian territory, the West Bank, attempted to establish a new colony in the area outside Hebron on Wednesday. They said the outpost was meant to give a message to George Bush, who has previously given his wholehearted support to Israel's settlement policy. Although Bush gave a nonchalant statement that “Outposts, yeah, they ought to go”, during his Jerusalem press conference on Wednesday, he made no firm commitment to challenge Israel's policy of expansion in any meaningful way.
In fact, U.S. policy under Bush has been to promote Israel and give approval to Israeli settlement expansion, as a 2003 letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demonstrates. In that letter, during the height of the current open conflict, Bush praised Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the frenzied settlement expansion going on at that time.
The Israeli settlers in Hebron, known to be the most violent and extreme in the West Bank, marched onto land owned by Palestinian farmer Mahmoud Jabir, and began erecting tents. The settlers blocked the road with stones and prevented the Palestinian residents of the area from passing.
Ironically, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated, at a press conference with George Bush, almost at the same time the colony was being erected, “The Palestinians too, know that there is no new construction or confiscation of land” by Israel. But Olmert failed to mention the 16 new settlements that have been established by Israelis on stolen Palestinian land in the last two weeks alone.
Olmert did assert Israel's claim over the “settlement blocs and Jerusalem”, which “Palestinians know” have a different status that the rest of the West Bank. By this statement, he laid claim to a huge swath of land that has been taken over by force since 1967 in direct violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel signed in 1953, bans the takeover of militarily-occupied land by the occupying force. It also bans the transfer of civilian populations onto land seized in this way. Over 500,000 Israelis live as settlers on land illegally seized from Palestinians since 1967.
Hebron Governor Hussain Al-A'raj stated, "Settlers in Hebron have sent a welcome message to George Bush telling him that settlement construction is still ongoing. As long as there is one single settlement on Palestinian land, there will be no peace in the region. These settlement activities reveal the real intentions of the Israeli government to go ahead with settlement expansion."