When will the Israelis wake up?

In a recent post, I wrote about the disastrous Palestinian strategy of using violence against Israel. Here I would like to discuss the disastrous Israeli settlements policy.

Since 1967 when Israel occupied Arab lands, including the West Bank, in a war against a coalition of Arab countries intending to destroy Israel, most Israelis have consistently elected governments that have maintained or advanced the policy of building settlements in the West Bank. Yet, as a minority of Israelis realize, this policy is contrary to the long-term interests of Israel, and more specifically, its ability to survive as a democratic Jewish state.

It does not take a genius to understand this. Israel cannot continue indefinitely to occupy another people. It will eventually either be forced to end the occupation, most likely in a way that is not advantageous to Israel, or it will have to integrate millions of Palestinians into the Israeli population, giving them equal rights and consequently turning Israel into a bi-national or even Arab state.

Israel within the Green Line (the borders of Israel before the war of 1967) is already 78% of Israel/Palestine, leaving only 22% for a Palestinian state. In addition, the 1995 Oslo Accords left Area C, which is 61% of the West Bank, completely under the administration of Israel, which has enabled Israel to build settlements in various parts of that area (see map). This leaves less than 10% of Israel/Palestine off limits for Israeli settlements, and that small percentage, which includes Gaza and several small West Bank enclaves, is geographically unworkable as a united entity.

Map of the Palestinian territories showing the settlements as of 2007 (Wikimedia Commons)

By continuing to treat most of the West Bank as if it owns it, Israel is sending a clear message to the Palestinians and to the world that it intends to keep this piece of land. This discourages Palestinians who may be tempted to give up on violence and to accept Israel as neighbor. What prospect can they look forward to? Indefinite dependence on Israel? This Israeli policy also convinces the Palestinians and the world that Israel is not interested in a fair settlement of the conflict.

Israel cannot continue this policy indefinitely. If it is not forced to end the occupation, it will be forced to give the Palestinians Israeli citizenship.

Israel’s only hope for a stable future as a democratic Jewish state is to vacate settlements from the vast majority of the West Bank, keeping only the large blocks that are near the Green Line. Israel could continue to have IDF presence in the West Bank and could continue the blockade of Gaza until the Palestinians are no longer a security threat to Israel, therefore giving a clear signal to the Palestinians that a state awaits them if they give up on violence.

Until then, Israel’s settlements policy provides a disincentive to Palestinians to give up on violence. Palestinians see Gaza where violence against Israel often occurs, and they note that Israel has not dared re-occupy it despite the violence. They also see the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority cooperates with Israel on security and where violence against Israel is much less frequent than in Gaza, and they note that Israel not only still occupies the West Bank but also continues to build settlements and to talk about annexation. What conclusion would the Palestinians be expected to draw from this?

Israelis who support the settlements point to the Palestinians’ rejection of two-state solutions in the past, and they conclude that there is nothing to gain from putting a halt to the settlements policy, but this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The growing settlements make the geography of a possible Palestinian state look increasingly less acceptable, and the less attractive a two-state solution looks to the Palestinians, the more likely they are to continue using violence.

While the Palestinians have no positive prospects in the immediate future if they do not give up on violence, and while they have uncertain prospects if they do, Israel’s settlements policy gives them a long-term hope, the hope that Israel will self-destruct, resulting in all of Israel/Palestine turning into an Arab state.

When will most Israeli voters wake up to this reality?

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 he supports the Palestinians' right to self-determination in their own state. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, 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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