Ten years ago about 50 Israeli soldiers, including some officers, refused to serve in the Occupied Territories, roughly the size about 22 per cent of the original state, Palestine, which until mid-1948 was a mandate under British rule.

A declaration by these angry soldiers loudly protested against Israel’s campaign to “dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people”. The Palestinian population totalled about 20 per cent of the Israeli population, then estimated at some six million. The Israeli dissident group, known initially as the Courage to Refuse, immediately expanded into more than 400 reservists. Some put the figure as high as 1,000.

The more outspoken international organisations and some Jewish groups sympathetic to the Palestinian cause are often witnesses to shocking Israeli crimes. Most of these deadly attacks have lately been documented on an attractive website called http://mondoweiss.net whose founder and co-editor is Philip Weiss, an American.

A case in point is the killing of American student Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, nine years ago. An Israeli military bulldozer ran over her as she stood as a human shield in front of a Palestinian home set to be demolished.

This time around, Weiss wrote this week: “I pray with all my heart that all American Zionists see the pictures [on the website] and tell me how an ideology of Jewish separatism that has deprived several million Palestinians of any rights can be justified in today’s world.”

In another brutal incident last week, Israeli soldiers drove a tractor they seized from Palestinians over a Palestinian construction worker’s legs, who was building a house on Israeli occupied land in his village near Hebron.

This criminal event preceded another Israeli warning reported by the New York Times on January 28 that exposed Israel’s greed and the intention to take over territories in the West Bank where about 500,000 illegal Israeli colonists are now living.

According to the paper’s correspondent, Ethan Bronner, “Israeli negotiators told their Palestinian counterparts [in Amman] that their guiding principle for drawing the borders of a future two-state solution would be for existing settlement [colony] blocks [in the West Bank] to become part of Israel, an approach that the Palestinians rejected as unacceptable”.

By all accounts, especially from the Palestinian side, the so-called exploratory talks in Amman were not productive.

Adding fuel to the fire has been a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared that he would only agree to sign a final status agreement with the Palestinians “if it includes Israel remaining in the Jordan Valley” — a position Palestinians have often rejected in the past.

Netanyahu is now in the midst of a new expansionist plan to subsidise construction in 557 rural colonies, including 70 in the West Bank. Most of whom, reported the Israeli paper Haaretz, are “deep inside the West Bank in areas that Israel would likely have to evacuate to make way for a Palestinian state”. There is more here than meets the eye. Why would Israel waste money on a region that it will ultimately yield to Palestinians?

The immediate US criticism of Israel in this respect is commendable, but it is likely that in the long-run it would be worthless. It is common knowledge that during an election year, the US administration is careful not to upset the Jewish voter or a generous donor.

But Palestinian spokesman Gassan Khatib pointed out that with “every additional settlement [colony] activity, the feasibility of having two states is diminished.” What he really was alluding to is that the drive for a one-state solution is systematically gaining ground.

It is somewhat bewildering that Netanyahu’s Likud party should be holding a primary election alongside America’s. The prevalent view here is that the Israeli leader is hoping to strengthen his position should President Barack Obama be re-elected, a situation which may not augur well for the expansionist Israelis like Netanyahu.

George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist.

–Gulf News