Arie Pellman
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Homesh: Cornerstone of an ever-conflicted One State

Settlement in areas heavily populated by Palestinians undermines the Zionist achievement of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel
Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan (right) afixes a mezuzah to the new yeshiva in Homesh, May 29, 2023. (Roi Hadi)
Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan (right) afixes a mezuzah to the new yeshiva in Homesh, May 29, 2023. (Roi Hadi)

When Ariel Sharon — and later Benjamin Netanyahu — evacuated Homesh, it reflected a realization of the need to separate from the Palestinians in order to avoid falling into the trap of a bloody binational reality and forfeiting Israel’s Jewish majority. Allowing reckless extremists to resettle the place accelerates processes leading to the Lebanonization of Israel.

At first glance, Homesh, the illegal outpost where a yeshiva was constructed last week with government approval, is a minor and fleeting episode in Jewish history. A closer inspection shows otherwise. At a time when there no longer is a significant Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, according to data from the Civil Administration and the Central Bureau of Statistics, resettling Homesh reflects the vision of the most extreme messianic right, of a binational state between the river and the sea.

By seeking to establish contiguous Jewish settlement in the heartland of Palestinian life on the West Bank, they are determined to prevent any possibility of separation between the two peoples. This will leave future Israeli governments with but two, equally calamitous choices, each spelling the end of the Zionist enterprise: either grant Palestinians full and equal civil rights, thereby forfeiting the Jewish character of the State of Israel; or deny them rights and usher in an apartheid-like reality, thereby forfeiting Israeli democracy.

In allowing this to happen, we surrender both the shaping of Israel’s future and its security to an extreme, anti-Zionist, messianic right. By virtue of its location, Homesh and settlements like it literally undermine national security. Located in the heart of a densely populated Palestinian area, elite Israeli forces are required for their defense thus undermining the preparedness of the IDF in the face of growing threats on multiple fronts. Furthermore, the daily friction with surrounding Palestinians serves as an additional incentive for terrorist violence, both in the territories and within Israel proper. Extremist settlers act as if land were more sacred than human life. In so doing they jeopardize the lives of their own families as well as of all Israelis throughout the country.

The resettlement of Homesh undermines national security in other ways as well. In violating commitments by Israeli prime ministers — the late Ariel Sharon to US President Bush and Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Biden administration – the move triggered emphatic US protests, underscoring the cumulative damage to our strategic relations with the United States, a main pillar of Israel’s security.

Another casualty of recklessly resettling Homesh is the settlement enterprise itself. Some 80 percent of West Bank settlers reside in the major settlement blocs, which are backed by a broad public consensus. The isolated, lawless settlements, where brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians originate, cast a vicious shadow over all West Bank settlers. 

If, therefore, settlement in Homesh is renewed – in violation of the law, government decisions, national security needs, and commitments to the United States — it would be another milestone in the process of undoing the Zionist vision carried out by people who claim to speak in the name of Zionism itself.

Wildcat settlements on the West Bank are the appalling result of ‘government-sanctioned anarchy.’ Settlement in heavily populated Palestinian areas contradicts Zionist values and undermines the key achievement of well over 100 years of Zionist settlement writ large – the establishment of a solid Jewish majority in the State of Israel. Although these settlements constitute a tiny minority in the midst of an overwhelming Palestinian majority, this trend, if not reversed, threatens to achieve its strategic objective of preventing separating the two peoples. In doing so, it will inflict a critical blow to our Jewish majority.

Most Israelis, including many who voted for the current governing coalition, are opposed to living in a single Jewish-Palestinian state – even if a slim Jewish majority proves sustainable, but certainly should demographic trends make it disappear.

It is incumbent on the Israeli public to speak out against this development, and it is the duty of the government to stop this process before we are condemned to an ever-conflicted reality that jeopardizes the Zionist vision.

About the Author
Arie Pellman served as Deputy Director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and is a member of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS).