Fred Maroun
A believer in peace and human dignity

Running with scissors: Israel’s ominous settlement policy

As a Zionist and as an Arab who looks to Israel as a role model for Arabs, it pains me to see Israel continue a settlement policy that will lead to the end of the Jewish state if it continues.  This policy is like someone running with scissors while unreasonably hoping for the best.  The settlement policy does not benefit Israel, but it greatly benefits anti-Zionists because it furthers their main goal.  By funding the settlements, Israel is using precious public resources to finance her own demise.

Running with scissors

There is plenty of evidence that any Israeli Prime Minister would accept a two-state solution that provides a stable and secure end to the conflict, but settlement construction is slowly killing the possibility that such a solution could ever be possible.  It keeps increasing the number of settlers that would have to be uprooted as part of a two-state peace agreement (even though the largest settlements would likely become part of Israel as part of a land-swap agreement), and it discourages supporters of Israel, especially moderate Arabs.

The settlements make the likelihood of annexation of the West Bank by Israel higher every day, and such annexation would eliminate Israel’s large Jewish majority, yet rationalizations of the settlement policy continue.

The “Jordan is Palestine” argument

No government promotes this concept today, especially not Israel which signed a peace treaty with Jordan.  This argument also relies on most Palestinians willingly leaving the West Bank which would be part of a democratic state (i.e., Israel if the West Bank was annexed) to go live in a much poorer and much less democratic Jordan, and it relies on settling practically all Palestinian refugees in places other than the West Bank; both of these assumptions are highly unlikely.  Finally, this argument fails to recognize that the concept of Palestinian nationhood is stronger today than it has ever been, and it cannot be wished away.

The “Jews should be able to live in Palestine” argument

Of course Jews should be able to live in Palestine, and anyone who says otherwise is an anti-Semite and a racist.  They should also be able to live in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and so on, but we all know that they cannot.  In fact one of the motivations for the existence of the Jewish state is that Israel is a haven for Jews who are unwanted elsewhere.  If Jews were accepted as equal citizens in Arab countries and if Arab regimes were fair towards Jews, they would have accepted the 1947 UN partition plan or some other reasonable solution, but this is not the case.  Leaving Jews in a Palestinian state is a laudable and idealistic goal, but it is not real, at least not for a long time.

The counter-demographic argument

This is the claim that despite annexation of the West Bank, Jews can still maintain a majority through Jewish immigration and a high Jewish birth rate, but this is not true or even sufficient.  The vast majority of Jews outside Israel are in the United States, showing no sign of getting ready for a mass Aliyah.  The Jewish birth rate argument is flawed as well because despite a decrease in the Israeli Muslim birth rate, it is still higher than the Jewish birth rate.  But even if Jews were able to remain a majority, the size of the majority would be much smaller than it currently is.  A larger proportion of Israeli Arabs means a larger proportion of anti-Zionist MKs.  This would result in the inability of Israel to form workable governing coalitions that do not include anti-Zionists.  The only hope for Israel to remain a strong liberal democracy that can defend herself is to have an overwhelming majority of Jewish citizens.

The “Israel is too small for future growth” argument

The population density of Gaza is about seven times the population density of Israel (without the West Bank) even if all Israeli settlers moved back from the West Bank to within the green line.  Yet, as all Zionists agree, Gaza would be a viable entity if only it had a competent and peaceful government like Israel does.  Even without the West Bank, Israel could welcome all the Jews in the world while maintaining a population density far smaller than Gaza’s.

The security argument

This argument is that Israel cannot afford to end military control of the West Bank since it would likely come under the control of extremist groups such as Hamas who would then launch rockets towards cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv which are much closer to the West Bank than to Hamas-controlled Gaza.  This point is valid; however, ending military control of the West Bank is distinct from ending settlement activity.  In one approach presented by Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid, the “first stage would be an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank where there are no settlements, though the Israel Defense Forces would retain the ability to act anywhere in the West Bank if the need arose. At the same time, Israel would institute a freeze on construction outside the large settlement blocs”.

The Eretz Yisrael argument

This argument is that the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is part of the traditional land of Israel, and it has had continuous Jewish presence for thousands of years until the war of Independence in 1948, therefore Jews are simply settling on their ancestral lands.  In fact, Hebron which is in the southern West Bank, 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem, contains the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs, within the Cave of the Patriarchs, and it is considered the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem.  Although I agree that Jews should have every right to settle in Judea and Samaria, this is contrary to a two-state solution since it leaves Jewish presence in what is to become a Palestinian state.  This goes back to the “Jews should be able to live in Palestine” argument.

The “Palestinians leaders are not ready” argument

It is clear that the Palestinian leaders are not ready for a two-state solution, but Israel’s future should not depend on anti-Zionists being ready.  Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas pays lip service to the two-state concept, but he is always eager to use the settlements as in an excuse to not negotiate the two-state solution.  Hamas claims to want to free the West Bank from Israel, but it is also openly against the concept of two states.  The BDS movement claims to be concerned about Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but it tries to damage Israel’s economy everywhere, not only in the West Bank.  These people want a single state because they know that it would achieve their aim of destroying the Jewish state and turning Jews into a powerless minority.  Anti-Zionists are not ready for the two-state solution because it is not in their advantage to be ready; if Israel waits for them to be ready, it will never happen.  Israel needs the two-state solution, and therefore Israel must find a way to get to that solution.  No one else will.

The conflict that will determine Israel’s future

The conflicts between anti-Zionists and Zionists will not determine the future of Israel.  The BDS movement will not succeed in anything other than in proving its own anti-Semitism.  Palestinian terrorism will not succeed in destroying Israel.  Iranian aggression will likely not succeed either although it is the most serious threat to Israel.  These conflicts are mostly distractions.

The meaningful conflict is between the Zionists who understand the need to plan for a two-state solution and the Zionists who do not.  A plan is needed, and the plan must start with limiting settlement construction to areas that would become part of Israel in a two-state agreement.  Outside those areas, the only Israeli presence should be IDF presence and only when needed for security.

Waiting for a miracle

If annexation of the West Bank were a good idea, Israeli politicians would have done it by now.  World opinion did not stop them from annexing East Jerusalem, and it could not stop them from annexing the West Bank.  They have not annexed the West Bank because they know that it would be a disastrous move for Israel, yet they continue building settlements there, seemingly waiting for a miracle.

Anti-Zionists have so far failed in everything.  They failed to destroy Israel militarily.  They failed to weaken Israel economically.  They failed to demoralize Israel through terrorism.  But in the end, their coveted prize, the destruction of the Jewish state, may be handed over to them on a silver platter by Zionists.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to defend itself. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities co-exist in peace with each other, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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