To paraphrase Kafka's most famous line, one might almost say that one day the country of Israel awoke to discover it had been transformed into a gigantic security state which routinely sets aside basic human rights. Except that no such sudden metamorphosis has taken place. In truth Israel has been acting this way for a very long time.
Two myths about settlements have become pervasive and should be challenged. The first is the idea that the biggest barrier in returning to peace talks is Israel's ongoing settlement construction. The second is that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is closing the door on a two-state solution.
When both sides have a claim to this small but strategically significant piece of land, the way to resolve the issue should be through negotiations between the parties, just as the EU is calling for. Why then has the EU prejudged the outcome of those negotiations by taking the Palestinian side of the argument?
In the short term aid is crucial to address the urgent needs of Palestinians living in poverty. However, it is essential to tackle the root causes of the problem and challenge the structures that keep people trapped in poverty and create the need for aid in the first place. This requires strong political will and conviction.
2011 was the most tumultuous year in the Middle East in recent memory. Long-held assumptions about the entire region were turned on their heads, with dictators falling, societies rising up, and diplomats, experts and statesmen scrambling to make sense of a new reality that is still shrouded in uncertainty.