The settler population in the West Bank — some 420,000 citizens — comprises only 4% of the population of Israel. Yet their control of the political, diplomatic, and security discourse is much stronger than their percentage of the population, and their actions are much more destructive for the State of Israel.
In light of recent events in the West Bank — the killing of two settler parents,multiple stabbings in East Jerusalem, and recently sporadic terror attempts within the Green Line border — leaders of the settler community organized a protest in front of Prime Minister’s Netanyahu residence and called for swift action. The call wasn’t for a military operation or stricter life restrictions for Palestinians, but rather for the construction of more houses, and the expansion and establishment of numerous settlements.
The following morning, talking on Israeli state radio provided insight into the way settlers perceive the current state of affairs. One of the participants, head of a Jewish regional council in the West Bank, provided an initial analysis that was spot on: the Palestinians are nowhere close to achieving their own state, their socio-economic situation is steadily deteriorating, and the international community is occupied with Syria and the Islamic State. With little hope of diplomatic or economic progress, their hopeless attacks on Israeli citizens constitute their only output for frustration and a lack of hope.
The conclusion the settlers derive from this analysis is jaw dropping and frightening. For an outsider looking at the situation there are two possible courses of action – make the attackers fear they have something to lose, or respond to their actions in such a drastic manner that will deter any future terror attempts. The settlers opt for a third one.
The settlers are under the impression that what would deter Palestinians from future terror attacks is more construction projects in the West Bank. As if Palestinians are allergic to cement. By pushing for further expansion of settlements the settlers prove that non-settler Jewish blood in only means to an end for their cause. It goes to show how Israel fundamentally failed to separate between religion and statehood.
Beyond the obvious counter argument to this egotistical self important settler demand, we must also review the broader picture, and specifically the implications of such move on Israel’s stance in the international arena.
If there’s one thing all international players agree on in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is the illegitimacy of settlements. While some would compromise on the status of the big four settlement blocks, the rest are unilaterally viewed as illegitimate. And any effort by the State of Israel to legitimize those settlement — be that by infrastructure, army security, bureaucracy or else — is a change to the status-quo that further strengthens Israel’s stronghold of the West Bank.
And that obviously comes with a price. Boycott of settlement goods is phase one, and it’s already underway in many European countries. Phase two could be boycott of goods by any company that is directly involved in “occupation practices” – broadly speaking any company that provides any services or goods for the settler community.
We must ask ourselves: are we willing to pay that price? Just so less than 0.5 million believers could have their way of life? Is it really beyond us to stand up and oppose to that? To demand our leaders to stop financing them with our tax money? Shifting funds from civil services in Israel for Israelis to defense and security expenses for a group of people who doesn’t even view us, our way of life, our blood, as any importance compared to their Messianic delusions and medieval love of some land coordinates?
Their representation in Israeli parliament is greater than any other part of society. They have two big parties – Likud and Jewish Home, spanning some 40 members of Knesset – at their command. Most Israelis don’t live in the West Bank. Most have never been there. Most will not be able to draw the line between Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem on a map. Why can’t our voice be heard as clearly as theirs? Why aren’t our lives as important as theirs? We are the 96%. And we should be very very angry.