With Israel’s campaign season in full swing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will add a new stop to his campaign trail. At U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation, Netanyahu is slated to address Congress on March 3 to advocate for a tougher line against Iran, in particular regarding the ongoing negotiations over its nuclear program. If Congress gives Netanyahu a platform to address these issues, it should also begin a conversation with President Barack Obama’s administration about how the United States can strike a blow against Israel’s continued settlement construction.
Since Netanyahu took office in March 2009, the population of Israeli settlements has grown dramatically. According to recently released Israeli government data, from the beginning of 2009 until the beginning of 2014, the settlement population grew 23 percent – more than double the rate of the overall Israeli population, which expanded 9.6 percent. In late December, another 380 new housing units in East Jerusalem settlements were approved.
This growth is partly being funded by millions of dollars from tax-exempt American charities, which help expand and support settlements. This growth is partly being funded by millions of dollars from tax-exempt American charities, which help expand and support settlements. Even though this revenue stream arguably violates Internal Revenue Service rules, neither Congress nor the Obama administration has done anything to stop it.
In late September, settlers moved into 25 housing units in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood that abuts the Old City to the south and is home to 50,000 Palestinians. The move prompted the Obama administration to condemn the organization that engineered the purchase – a reference, apparently, to an Israeli association known as Elad – as one “whose agenda, by definition, stokes tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.”