Blame the settlements for any negative Palestinian attitudes

To David, and to all:

Times do change– if allowed to change– toward peace.

Jeffrey Goldberg recently missed the point when he wrote that “One of the tragedies of the settlement movement is that it obscures what might be the actual root cause of the Middle East conflict.” And the root cause: wanting war and violence to get rid of– ’67 lines– Israel.

David Horovitz recently wrote in the same spirit: “Not an uprising against occupation. An uprising against Israel.”

With deep and genuine respect, and needless to say for our editor:

Both these preeminent commentators succumb to  blaming what they allege to be static Palestinian attitudes, when the blame instead goes to the occupation that has lasted longer than the Soviet Union’s over Eastern Europe, and the constant settlement expansion and the gobbling up of the last and smallest residue remaining to Palestine.

It is historically the settlements. To think it is static Palestinian attitudes is demonstrably anti-historical–and the opposite of the truth.

Let us bring out the real historical truth:

If there had been no settlement movement, with not a single permanent civilian settler over a wholly-honored Green Line, then…

…with stakes and temperature so lowered over many years or decades, and  without–or before–any fundamentalist factor…

…it could have stayed a near-total territorial and pragmatic issue.

Meanwhile Israel’s’ government would have stayed more secular and progressive.

It would also have had much more flexibility and negotiating power, both with the Palestinians and with its own citizens.

Israel’s government would have had just its obedient army to order out of the territories when an agreement was made. And knowing it wouldn’t have to worry about intractable hundreds of thousands of   settlers, while forging an agreement with the Palestinians.

There would have been no settler lobby or settlers to move out or negotiate over—“adjacent” settlements complexes, “remote” settlements, “East Jerusalem neighborhoods “ –nothing and no one.

And very little of an Israeli Right. None in the Occupied Territories, and none fanning the flames of the Right into Israel Proper from the Settler movement in the Occupied Territories.

The settler movement would have been entirely non-existent.

And with passing years and decades, we may imagine how much lower the political temperature–going down down, down.

How much higher the likelihood we would have had peace –  long ago.

And succeeded with Oslo, or the Geneva Accords, or Camp David, or the Arab League Peace Deal that was offered as early as 2002 and that Israel has ignored over the past 13 long years.

David and Jeffrey: Times can and do change, and were changing.

The deliberate constant settler expansionism gets full blame for any slowing of the flow of time and change– or stopping it in its tracks.

Many peace plans, including the much later Arab League plan, could have worked quickly and without even much ado of much further negotiating, since their conditions were already almost entirely met.

If there had not been Ariel Sharon’s cowboy-settler escalation and provocation and rampaging of settlements throughout the West Bank for most of the decades of his career– and also not Begin’s Lebanon War, which Begin started and then Sharon turned into an out-of-control horribly raging wildfire.

But even then, over decades, demonstrating both fact and flow of time, attitudes were– and could have continued even more– to change.

Even with the settlements we had Oslo. Consider what it would have been without any settlers.  With just the IDF across it, for defense until a peace deal, and no settlers.  Without the Rightist Israel settlement lobby and movement but Israel always honoring the Green Line from the outset.

And on top of no settlements, that King Hussein of Jordan and Yitzhak Rabin were at that time– when it counted so much– alive and working.

Rabin would have stayed alive throughout to carry on and carry out the much easier and simpler Oslo Accords, because no settler-movement with ideologically extremist incitement to assassinate him.

So that if there is still anger and resistance, the blame goes to the constant proactive energetic settlement expansionism .The humiliating settlements and the remaining land for a state constantly getting nibbled and gobbled away at, constantly more-and-more taken over.

This brought on the Palestinian humiliation and sense of rage and powerlessness– the encroaching loss of their remaining sliver of land. And with it the confrontations, wanton abuse, segregation, inequality, detentions, beatings in the territories–and settler violence and attacks.

And increasing Palestinian hopelessness, despair, anger –and radicalization of resistance to the occupation, expansion, domination.

Israel stopped time from changing. Stopped it from moving forward. Kept Palestinian attitudes more angry. Even reversed some of them. 

For no security reason whatever. Settlements brought no security.

Suppose there had been no settlements — no swashbuckling Sharon and his “fathering” of his settlements—and no Lebanon War, and the radicalism and bitterness that these created.

And instead the temperature continually lowering, lowering, lowering.

Because times can change, and were changing, and could have changed still more, if the Israeli Right had allowed them to change.

If Israel had done something as basically decent and common-sense and prudent as honor the Green Line,  then time would have flowed toward low stakes and peace, especially since the settlements added not an iota to security. All they have done is pour humiliating solidifying amber on Palestinian attitudes to try to set them back–as a stateless, dominated, oppressed, constantly taken-over, and occupied people.

Without the settlement expansionism, now at 750,000 settlers? No Israeli radicalization. Little or no more Palestinian angry radicalization. Even far more readiness than the plentiful amount than there already was at Oslo to recognize Israel and make peace, in return for freedom.

Times change, and could have flowed forward even more, if the Israeli Right had let it change– rather than clamping it frozen down shut tight.

And remember who wanted there to be no occupation or settlements?

David Ben-Gurion–the Founder of Israel himself–wanted us out.



About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.