Many Israeli and American Jews are disappointed that in 2023 the new far-right government of Israel appears poised to approve the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But no Israeli government lasts longer than a few years. Perhaps in the future, a majority of the people of Israel will decide that sustained occupation is not compatible with their democratic Jewish values. In that case, the Israeli people may elect a centrist government that will move in the opposite direction by endeavoring to remove Jewish settlers from the West Bank.
To achieve this outcome, a centrist Israeli government is advised to take the following two preliminary steps: (1) secure the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority, and (2) start building new homes and community infrastructure inside Israel to house people who eventually will be relocated from the West Bank.
Israel’s failure to take these two steps prior to removing all settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 contributed to the unhappy aftermath of that evacuation. In 2007, Hamas overthrew the governing PA in Gaza and began its current practice of spontaneously bombarding southern Israel with thousands of rockets. Many of the 8.000 former residents of Gaza spent years living in temporary mobile homes in Israel.
Israel’s centrist government can address step (1) by informing the PA of Israel’s intention to withdraw the settlers from the West Bank. The PA will certainly want Israel to proceed as quickly and peacefully as possible. Religious Jews are the Israeli settlers most reluctant to leave their homes and communities in the West Bank because they are located close to Jewish holy sites. Following their departure, religious Jews will require access to all Jewish holy sites left behind. They will desire to schedule regular visits to these sites along designated routes. Observant worshippers might hope to rent the land surrounding sites that are holy only to Jews. Local Palestinians can accommodate the needs of religious Jews by building hotels adjacent to holy sites. Regular visits to the West Bank by observant Jews can provide employment to many Palestinians.
To motivate the Israeli people to elect a centrist government that will have the financial resources needed to address step (2), several centrist American Jewish organizations can unite to establish a new Housing and Community Infrastructure Fund or HCIF. These organizations could include the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the New Israel Fund. The purpose of this fund would be to help finance the construction, by a future centrist government of Israel, of new homes inside Israel to house over 450,000 settlers evacuated from the West Bank.
Wealthy Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar, that proclaim their love for the Palestinians and demand an end to the occupation, can be publicly invited to contribute to this fund. The Negev in southern Israel, with growing agricultural, educational, medical, and cultural facilities, is an attractive region in which to initiate the construction of new housing for settlers to be relocated from the West Bank.