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Richard Silverstein: Outside pressure needs to be exerted on Israel

A digger works near the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit, near Bethlehem, the West Bank, May 17, 2016. (AFP photo)

Richard Silverstein, a journalist and political commentator in Seattle, was interviewed by Press TV about Israel’s illegal settlement activities.

A rough transcription of the interview appears below.

Press TV: The Middle East Quartet blasted Israel’s settlement expansion as both illegal and an obstacle to peace with Palestinians. Netanyahu and Lieberman are pushing ahead with even more expansion.

Silverstein: This is a typical tactic by Israel whenever it wants to make a political statement of rejectionism against the Palestinians, whenever it feels backed into a corner, it feels it has any advantage, it announces new settlements being built.

But I want to also point out to something even more outrageous and that is that the Israeli cabinet today was meeting to decide whether it would arrest the families of the Palestinians who have carried out these attacks, not just the attackers themselves who are generally killed when they attack an Israeli, but the families will be, their houses will be destroyed, they could be arrested and they could be expelled to Syria.

I have no concept what the Israelis are thinking that the Syrians would accept expelled Palestinians unless they are just going to dump them in the Golan on the other side and wait for the Syrian rebels to deal with the Palestinians in some way, but this is totally outrageous, it is a violation of international law, collective punishment, punishing the families of people who have committed a crime is completely unacceptable under international law.

Press TV: The US is part of that Middle East Quartet, along with the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia. Why issue these pointless condemnations, reports, and suggestions, when obviously none of it results in a change of course from Tel Aviv? Is it not time to see more concrete repercussions if Israel continues to blatantly violate international law and the rights of Palestinians?

Silverstein: Of course. Of course this is true. The Quartet is meaningless. I should add though that Israel even though the Quartet is meaningless and toothless, Israel has denounced the Quartet for saying that the settlements are illegal, even though this is a toothless statement having no meaning.

The only thing that makes me hopeful is that there is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the United States, who has a much stronger pro-Palestinian position than any other candidate running and that BDS is gaining momentum in the United States and in Europe so there are glimmers of hope I think on the horizon although I do not see hope in any official action by any official body or the Quartet or anything like that.

Press TV: Do you get the sense that without outside pressure, Israel does not really care about peace with the Palestinians?

Silverstein: It will take an immense amount of pressure and I do not think anybody in the world is ready to exert that level of pressure, but I think that as things get worse, I have to tell your viewers that the Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was almost physically attacked in the Knesset for demanding that Israeli commandos apologize for killing ten Turks on the Mavi Marmara.

So as these sorts of incidents become worse, as the world looks on with horror at them, I think the pressure will build in the world, outside pressure on Israel, and that is the only way that this will come to a resolution.

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