An Historic Error

by A. Jay Adler on March 29, 2010
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The Israeli settlements, on the West Bank and in Gaza, were an historic error the cost of which Israel is now paying. Many people in both public and private life feared this to be so when the Likud government began its aggressive settlement policy in the 1970s, and time has proven them right. Israel acknowledged the error in Gaza when it unilaterally evacuated and abandoned the settlements there in 2005. Many people believe the unilateral process of that withdrawal was also an error.

Like many other acts by Israel for which it should have reaped rewards – in good will and reciprocity from its Palestinian antagonists, in the recognition by other nations of Israel’s original and ultimate desire to live in peace with its Arab neighbors, and in its willingness to compromise to make peace – in its contention with the Palestinians, Israel gained nothing from the Gaza withdrawal. It gained not progress toward peace, but Hamas as the rulers of Gaza and increased military assault from the Gaza strip. It gained wide condemnation for attempts to end and control the violence from Gaza. It gained unchanging accusations of occupation even when it no longer occupied. It gained from countries that are not surrounded nations deep on all sides by mortal and declared enemies – and that have not survived under existential threat by those enemies for all of their histories – condemnation for not freely opening borders so that yet another enemy territory might thrive to oppose it. And every time the sources of condemnation put pen to paper over Gaza, open mouths wide with complacent moral judgment over Gaza, they forget – they conveniently forget – that Egypt, too, borders Gaza and enforces on it, with little attention, a blockade more severe than Israel’s. No one mentions this. No one questions it. No one asks Egypt why it does what it does, what threat it sees in Gaza. No one rouses the world to condemn the dictatorial Egypt.

Why were the settlements an error? Because they violated a calculus without foundation, and a measure without consistency or exactitude, of what is equitable in the aftermath and resolution of conflict. For a variety of reasons the 1967 boundaries between Israel and the Palestinians became set in world consciousness as a determinative status quo ante, as if they had been a fixed and legal border between two existing states, which the armistice boundaries of 1948 were not. Far from the rote expressions of today, this consciousness was still already widespread when Likud initiated its policy. The policy was criticized by people and nations from its inception. Political supporters of the settlement policy believed they could institute “realities on the ground” that would ultimately supersede objections. For the most part, they will have been wrong. The price Israel has paid for this mistake – visible for all with long enough historical vision to see – is the loss, over three decades, of the perceived moral high ground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the perception of the justness of Israel’s position.

The loss of this moral high ground in the world’s eyes – the judgment upon Israel – is a mistake greater by far than that of the settlements. Still, beyond the deepest causes of this historical change, which are anti-Semitism in multiple guises and the unremitting enmity toward Israel of the Arab and Muslim worlds, the immediate cause is the settlements.

Why is the response to the settlements an even greater error than the settlements themselves? Forgotten in the uncritical historicizing of the Palestinian dispossession that resulted from the partition, and then immediately the 1948 war that followed from Palestinian rejection of the partition – Palestinian rejection of an Israeli state – is that Jews were dispossessed too. In addition to the expulsions or flight of Jews from their own historical homes in the Levant and North Africa, Jews had long lived in towns and cities of the West Bank. Before the partition, Jews held legal title to property on the West Bank, just as Palestinians held title to property in present day Israel. Yet it is of a Palestinian “right of return” we hear, not a Jewish. This is an Arab narrative that has prevailed. This narrative has prevailed, in part, because Israel, rather than offer a narrative of its own, used the advantage of its position simply to return to where it believed Jews had a right to be. Indeed, there are Jews who speak of continuing to inhabit the West Bank – as Jews, not as Israelis – after a Palestinian state is created.

The same rights Palestinians have to property in Israel, Jews have to property on the West Bank. The Palestinians, in negotiations with Israel, have never yet forsworn their claim to a right of return. Why, then, unilaterally, should Israel give up its claims?

But historical ignorance, characteristic of many who opine on the conflict, leaves many unaware of the equal claims. Historical ignorance and outright bias lead many to refer to the 1967 boundaries as borders and to claim that U.N. Resolution 242 requires an Israeli return to the ’67 “borders,” while, in fact, the precise meaning of 242 is moot until the end of time. However, in all the pretense of a fully functional international legal system with universal and universally recognized jurisdiction, why, in the historical regression to a status quo ante, stop at 1967? The ’67 boundaries for Israel were the consequence of its 1948 victory in war. They had not been earlier established by U.N. or any other international legal resolution as permanent borders. Why not revert to the partition lines? That would certainly please anti-Zionists. Ah, but recall, the Palestinians rejected those lines too, which is how six decades of conflict ensued.

I raise the issue of the partition lines to highlight the inconsistency and hypocrisy in so much discussion of the conflict and in the judgments upon Israel. Sometimes we resort to law, sometimes we quietly accept the realities of conflict and power and of victory and defeat, sometimes we operate from an amorphous sense of equity. That sense of equity long ago established in international consciousness something close to the 1967 boundaries as the shape of an ultimate resolution. This was clear to most people in the 1970s, and this is why the settlements were a mistake. However, it is this entire context, and the yet unmentioned context here of Palestinian behavior over six decades, that makes the reaction to the settlements an even greater mistake, and the currently evolving Obama administration policy a compounding of that mistake.

I will not review here the basic matter of the six decade Palestinian refusal. It should be apparent to all with unclouded eyes. I will reiterate what I wrote last week about Palestinian Jew hatred, Palestinian Authority and Hamas media incitement to hatred, and the educational indoctrination to hatred and conflict in the Palestinian schools. Why does the world focus so on settlements and speak only the occasional, muted, pro forma words – and seek no action – against the cultural institutionalization of this hatred? Every criticism one might ever read of inequality for Arab citizens of Israel is made mockery of by the fanatical hatemongering of Palestinian society toward Jews. Who can cite a single brokered peace agreement accepted by the Palestinians over the past decade? Who can cite one peace proposal developed by the Palestinians and offered to Israel? The record, of course, for Israel, is the very reverse.

Nonetheless, as I wrote last week, the Obama administration has accepted the “Israel-is-the-problem” narrative about the long failure to achieve peace. It appears to have accepted the notion (even as the standard encomia for Israel would state otherwise) of some emergent moral callousness in Israeli society that has been the demise of a widespread and effective Israeli “peace” movement. It appears not to have perceived what is manifestly, historically clear: the decline amongst Israeli “peace” forces was the consequence of two rejected peace agreements by the Palestinian Authority, and the full knowledge among Israelis that what they received in return for a decade long peace process and their own willingness to accept those two agreements, with much sacrifice entailed, was the barbarity of the second Intifada. What they received in return for constructing the barrier that ended the horrific suicide bombings of the Intifada were moral calumnies about apartheid and concentration camps.

Even so, in the fall of 2008, once more an Israeli prime minister offered the Palestinian president what no Palestinian has ever offered Israel – a peace proposal. In this proposal, as in the earlier two, at Camp David and Taba, the Israeli Prime proposed the creation of a Palestinian state on terms that would have meant almost a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of the Palestinian capitol in Jerusalem. The Palestinian president rejected the proposal by simply not responding to it. Israel is even now willing to engage in direct, unconditional negotiations. The Palestinians refuse both. Yet the Obama administration formulates a policy to get tough with Israel.

There has been much recent speculation about the geostrategic thinking behind the emerging Obama administration stance. The grander strategy may be to settle the conflict to better contain Iran. In the shorter term, Obama may be seeking to destabilize Netanyahu’s governing coalition in the hope of bringing in more moderate Kadima leader Lipi Zivni. Keep in mind, though, that the still more left Labor Party is already in the coalition, and there is no indication that either Ehud Barak, who negotiated the Camp David and Taba agreements, or Labor icon, President Shimon Peres are at odds with the longstanding  Jerusalem construction policy or the government’s position on negotiations. In any case, recent American behaviors to look tough with Israel and to angle into position in these strategies are very tenuous maneuvers toward very speculative outcomes. And in the meantime, at an unparalleled time of ill will and low sympathy for Israel, American positioning is now feeding the rampant misperceptions, even, as was too little recalled these past two weeks, the Netanyahu government had already agreed to a ten-month freeze in West Bank settlement growth.

It is difficult not to conclude that rather than Israel taking its U.S. ally for granted, it is the U.S. joining too much of the European continent in judging Israel by a double standard. Here  is the Economist openly acknowledging what has long been known by Israel and its friends, that

criticism of Israel’s human-rights record has less to do with anti-Semitism than it does with the opposite. Western countries hold Israel to a different standard than they do Congo because they see in Israel a rich, Western-like, European-descended country. We in Europe and America judge Israel harshly not because Israelis are the Other, but because they’re unusually like us. Does Israel really want to be judged by the same standard we use to judge Omar al-Bashir? Now that would be anti-Semitism.

This attitude is a disgrace, simultaneously expressive of centuries-old colonial condescension toward non-European cultures, and perversely inverting anti-Semitism by discovering in the shine of admiration a new manner in which to treat Jews differently: they are almost like us, so we will judge them more harshly than their less admirable enemies. It has the stink of a rotting European corpse that should have been buried sometime between VE Day and the late afternoon that the last European flag was lowered over the last colony.

At the same time, the Sunday Times (UK) offers the latest elucidation of the festering prejudice against Israel at Human Rights Watch and UN Watch the same of the United Nations Human Rights Council. I gave some indication in Israel: Escaping the Image and Language Trap of the extent of the Palestinian culture of hate. There is, too, the odious BDS movement against Israel. And it is in this atmosphere that the Obama administration chose to “get tough” with Israel over the fiction of its resistance to negotiations and peace.

It is difficult not to conclude that the Obama foreign policy team, already confronting difficulties with the Muslim world, is reluctant to provoke more unsupportable accusations against it – by focusing a proper light on the Palestinian culture of hate and refusal – so, instead, offers up its democratic ally in an effort to curry favor with the Arab and Muslim worlds in its varied strategies. They think, they say, through all manner of leaks, they will win cooperation toward achieving a peace. They think this in contradiction of all evidence from the last ten years, the last twenty, the last sixty.

The settlements were a mistake, because they gave Israel’s enemies an opportunity to cast it in the wrong, rather than the people who for twenty-four years after the Six Day War refused to even speak of exchanging peace for land. But the settlements are there. The settlements should be dismantled, but not unilaterally. Nothing is gained unilaterally: that is established. They are bargaining chips, just as is every Palestinian demand on which the PA refuses to budge on its own. Bargaining chips – and Israel has demonstrated three times now that it is willing to put this one in the pot – are played in the game, not as a precondition for entering it. Preconditions are ruses for delaying the game, only another form of bargaining outside the game while offering nothing in return. No one plays poker like that.

Contrary to the Western tendency to believe that all conflict is the consequence of misunderstanding and the human frailty of miscommunication – that no side in conflict is ever, simply, wrong (unless it’s Israel) – the Palestinians have no genuine record of desiring an agreement to live in peace beside an Israeli state, and they continue to promote Israeli and Jew hatred and the hope that they can outlast Israel, even in the depths of their own suffering, and see its end. It has already been suggested in multiple places that what the developing Obama policy may counterproductively engender is greater Palestinian and Arab resistance – even more violence – as the Palestinians and their allies begin to believe the tide has turned in their favor.

What we may be witnessing is another historic error.

AJA


14 comments

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

YurasKarpau April 4, 2010 at 1:02 am

anecdote.
Ukrainian news from Vancouver:
Israeli biathlete did not shoot at targets –
he was with them quietly peace treaty …
© «Студия Квартал-95»

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NatetheGrate April 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

That was a very good post. You’re absolutely right — the Palestinians have no commitment to living alongside Israel. None of the Arab states except, perhaps, Jordan have accepted this either, but we know the Palestinians go along with negotiations until there is a possibility that they will be successful. Then, they pull out, because they have no desire to see that kind of success. Success is failure to the Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

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YurasKarpau April 2, 2010 at 4:35 am

And what do you think about this dual position?
http://twitter.com/gloriahere/status/11300933038 )

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copithorne April 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for your reply. I aspire to learn how to speak peaceably about this subject and I accept your correction that I failed to do so.

I respect that you know this situation in and out. I respect that the Israeli people have every reason to be completely fed up with Palestinian intransigence and violence. But I also believe that it is better to nurture hope and keep working towards peace. I do not believe it is in the interests of the United States or Israel to accept indefinite war. I see your despair that Israel is powerless to do anything to contribute to peace or to mollify the intransigent Palestinians as tantamount to accepting indefinite war.

I think there is a distinction to be made between your comparison of America’s relationship to the Argentine/UK conflict and America’s relationship to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict:
I count thousands of Americans dead as collateral damage in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. We have (hundreds of) billions of dollars sunk in this. But we’re just spectators of the Argentine/UK conflict.

So, America has a huge stake in peace and zero stake in, say, the status of Jerusalem. Therein lies the possibility that the interests of America and Israel could diverge.

I notice that my last post was written with some presumption that Israel should stop building settlements simply because we ask them to do so (and always have) and it is America that runs the real risk as the ultimate guarantor of Israeli security. When I consider this, I suppose it must seem to Israelis that they alone are the guarantor of their own security.

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A. Jay Adler April 2, 2010 at 12:57 am

Copithorne,

I write again not to get a last word in on this subject now, but to seek to end on a better note with you.

You write, “I do not believe it is in the interests of the United States or Israel to accept indefinite war. I see your despair that Israel is powerless to do anything to contribute to peace or to mollify the intransigent Palestinians as tantamount to accepting indefinite war.”

I very much agree that this is a concern, always to be guarded against, and I believe I see this same acceptance on the right, in the U.S. and in Israel. This is why I oppose, as I always have, further settlement construction or growth on the West Bank (distinct from Jerusalem, which is in several ways a profoundly separate issue), and one does have to recognize that a right wing led governing coalition in Israel did, not that long ago, agree to a ten-month suspension of such settlement growth – as one of those “confidence-building measures.” For which it received absolutely nothing in return from the Palestinian Authority, and no credit from the Obama administration. And when those ten months expire without progress – as they likely will, in part because the Obama administration has ginned the PA up to demand more, with nothing in return – and settlement growth unfortunately resumes, Israel will be called out as an obstacle to peace. It is, by now, a very familiar pattern. It is – as an idea to break out of that pattern, to disrupt the “Israel-is-the-obstacle-to-peace” narrative, and to redirect international pressure upon the Palestinians – that I advocated an Israeli official policy of always publicly tying demands upon it, for gestures and concessions, to Palestinian educational and media policy and reciprocal alterations there. At worst, and I’m afraid most likely, the Palestinians do nothing, and attention is better drawn to the reasons for the Israeli position. At best, genuine change might occur and a possibility for progress.

You write, “So, America has a huge stake in peace and zero stake in, say, the status of Jerusalem. Therein lies the possibility that the interests of America and Israel could diverge.”

I agree with you there, too, and it is, of course, legitimate and to be expected that the U.S. will act in accordance with its separate interests. But every interest needs to be weighed in itself and in relation to other interests. And the U.S. needs just as well to consider its interests in regard to the Palestinians. The U.S. has an interest in the creation of a Palestinian state, but beyond that, no particular interest in any of the specific demands of the Palestinians either. Whatever both sides can live with, the U.S. can live with without detriment to itself.

The U.S. also has an interest in being just. Justness demands a Palestinian state. It also demands that the U.S. in its policies not lose sight of which side in this dispute – Israel, whatever serious errors it may have made – has from the start been the party willing to compromise and live in peace, and which has from the start rejected all compromise and promoted enmity.

Most of all, from a real politic standpoint, the U.S. needs to recognize which party is representative of the same values as those held by the U.S., and is thus a natural ally, and which expresses, in word, deed, and its own alliances, values to which the U.S. is opposed. I disagree that “thousands of Americans [are] dead as collateral damage in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.” Although there are many who promote this idea, the historical record of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, and of intolerance of Western values in the Muslim world, everywhere rejects it. As just one example, recall that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was in no manner a response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and ushered in a regime in no way more liberal or just than that of the Shah it replaced.

You are generous to say that I know this situation in and out. I do not. I read many people regularly who inform me in areas they know far better than I. I take what I know and what I learn and I use it all in an effort to balance a sense of ideal justice with the awful realities of the world, the denial of which is never creative of justice.

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A. Jay Adler April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Copithorne,

I am taken aback by your comment.

It is in the interest of any party engaged in a negotiation to “play poker.” That’s what negotiations are. This is the real world we are discussing.

I don’t see the Palestinians offering Israel anything (while threatening for sixty years to take a good deal away). Perhaps I’ve missed something the Palestinians have offered that you could tell me about – some generous unilateral gesture akin to simply walking away from the settlements, as Israel, in fact, did in Gaza, that would make the Israelis feel they would not face the same result as with Gaza?

If reading my views has produced your comment, then I am struck that you are more exorcised by the settlements than the Palestinian culture of hate I wrote about, and that is as amply manifest as any settlement, most recently highlighted by the public veneration of Dalal Mughrabi. Israel has demonstrated multiple times, in multiple ways – including three peace proposals or offers – that it is willing to give up most of the settlements for peace. Have the Palestinians ever made any remotely comparable demonstration regarding the various shows of their genocidal antipathy?

Your focus on the settlements, among all of the factors on both sides – Palestinian alliances with Iran, for instance – as detrimental to U.S. interests, is startling. You are a person, I have gathered, for whom moral considerations in national policy are of the utmost importance. Here is a moral consideration in U.S. support for, and alliance with, Israel: Israel, for all its trials, is one of the greatest democracies in the world, a democracy alone in all the sea of autocracies, tyrannies, and fiefdoms of the Middle East. I would have little affection for it were it not. The U.S. should no more or less question its moral and affective allegiance to Israel than to Canada, England, the European democracies or any of the other great democracies of the world.

As to your last question, I will answer in two ways, first by illustration. On her recent visit to Argentina, Secretary of State Clinton offered a comment suggesting that the British should be having talks with the Argentines about the Falkland Islands. I disagree. The British think there is nothing to discuss regarding territorial ownership of the Falklands. I agree with them. I disagree with the U.S., I agree with Britain, and I will and do say so.

Otherwise your question is unbecoming of you.

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copithorne March 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm

As I said before, reading your views on this subject makes me question my longstanding support for continued American aid to Israel.

While you may be correct that it is in Israel’s interests to play poker it is definitely detrimental to American interests to buy the chips.

And then there’s the uncomfortable question that if the interests of the United States and Israel diverge, who’s interests are paramount to you?

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sshender March 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Jay, thank you for your thoughful reply. Here’s mine:

Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose there were no settlements at all – just Israeli military presense in the territories. Now, it is highly lilely that events would have taken a similar path and arrive at the (at least pre-Oslo) situation where we are now, i.e. Palestinian irreconcilability and terrorism. With no other alternative, Israel would most likely have been tempted to pull out unilaterally once the occupation would have started to excert a toll too heavy for the Israeli public to bear, physically and morally. Thankfully, we now have a precedent as to what might have superceded such a more, in the form of Hamas governed Gaza. True, if it were to happen a few decades ago, we would be dealing with “secular” (they are anything but, inspite of what the media calls them) forces instead of the Isamists, but that changes little because their ultimate goal is the same vis-a-vis Israel. So how, in essence, might the absense of settlements have precipitated a solution to the problem?

I, therefore categoraically reject your assumption that they are a strategic error in the long-term effort to achieve peace, since absent the settlements no peace could have been achieved anyway.

Your second contention, if I understand it correctly, is that the settlement just add more fuel to the fire. But is that really so? With the settlement gone, would the world opinion really change? In other words, are the settlements a root cause (one of many, to be sure) for anti-Israel sentiment, or simply an excuse to vent other, far more ingrained, hatreds and prejudacises? I’d argue that like an antisemite who vents his frustrations under the guise of “legitimate” anti-Zionism, for the anti settlement crowd they are but a convenient excuse. Since excuses are just an expedient, they are interchangeable and no amount of obedience to their whims is going to prevent them. You eliminate one – and they will come up with ten others (see the Shabaa farms as a glaring example).

You think that they “they lost Israel the sympathy of most of the world” – and I say it’s a cop out. The settlements have little to nothing to do with it. Them being there or not changes absolutely nothing in the minds of people opposed to Israel. It strikes me as odd that someone as intelligent and as informed as you can’t come to terms with that simple truth.

Thanx for your attention. Avaiting your response.

Sergei

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A. Jay Adler March 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Sergei, if intelligent people can’t come to terms with “simple truths,” the only reasonable explanation is Alien possession. I suggest we both spend the night monitoring our stomachs for an unwelcome extrusion. :)

I leave aside in all this, by the way, the moral argument against the settlements, and there is one.

First, it is too easy – and not commonsensical – simply to project that nothing would have fundamentally changed in the absence from the equation of so significant a factor as the settlements and all of their ramifications. Different factors produce changed dynamics and new sets of pressures, perhaps less on one party – Israel, without a major black mark against it in outside eyes – perhaps more on another – the Palestinians, in the absence of a major excuse.

Second, it is you, I am afraid, who is simply denying the evidence of history. Thirty-five years ago Israel enjoyed the genuine support of most Western democracies and the overwhelming support of most Western, including American, liberals, and by genuine support I mean not just the lip service to Israel’s right to exist, but real sympathy for its position and its struggles up until that time. This genuine support is largely gone. Attributing the decline in sympathy for Israel to anti-Zionism alone (and the anti-Semitism masked by it) is to close one’s eyes to empirical evidence. Israel has lost the sympathy of many people who are not anti-Semitic, not anti-Zionist, who still believe in Israel’s right to exist, but who have accepted a narrative more sympathetic to the Palestinians, and this includes a couple of generations who gained their first consciousness of the conflict influenced by that narrative of Israeli occupation and territorial expansion through war. Because it is not a “crowd” that opposes the settlements; it is most of the world, including, perhaps, most Jews – certainly many.

This transformation needs to be accounted for. Narratives need a text to support them, however much a misreading the narrative may be, and it is you, who deny the import of the settlements, who needs to consider objective causes for it besides all purpose, unchanging anti-Semitism, which existed in 1973 too. The most pressing reason to do so is reflected in this debate we are having. I advocate no unilateral action on the settlements, and my prime purpose in writing was to oppose the developing Obama administration policy toward Israel, and to do so, in part, by accounting for it in some more substantive and useful way than, say, (incorrectly) demonizing Obama. Yet here we are, arguing about the settlements.
One cannot begin to alter circumstances until one looks at them with clear, if unhappy, eyes.

I’ll end my part of this exchange here for now. Feel free, of course, to reply, and we’ll observe how circumstances continue to develop.

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A. Jay Adler March 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

sshender,

Thanks for your extended consideration of my post. You mistake me on a key point or two. (Or I was unclear; we can toss that up.) I am arguing anything but that dismantling the settlements will in itself lead to peace, and I am not advocating any benefit of currying favor with the Palestinians. I think I am clear that I believe that Palestinian bad faith and hateful ill will is historically manifest. Though I think them to have been a profound error, the settlements are there, and they need to be dealt with as part of a comprehensive agreement. Israel would be foolish to do otherwise, and I do not anticipate Israel acting foolishly on this score.

I do not argue that the settlements were wrong because there might have been peace without them. Given the nature of the Palestinian leadership these many decades – as morally deficient and inadequate a group as any by which an aspirant people has ever been led – it would be foolish to confidently claim so.

I do argue that the settlements were a strategic error in the long-term effort to achieve peace. Given the complexity of intermingled lives and histories, both the Israelis and Palestinians can offer moral rationales for a host of positions and behaviors, including Israeli settlement of the West Bank. Peace requires abandoning some of those rationales, even if the sides think them just. As I argued, the world developed a sense of general, ultimate equity in the apportionment of land, and Israeli settlement of the West Bank as a result of victory in war – regardless of who was to blame for the war – defied that sense of equity. It is not hindsight to say so; many people argued exactly this, and the potential consequences, when the settlement policy began. Certainly, without the settlements a major red herring that strikes the rest of the world as a very huge tuna would have been removed for the Palestinians and their many ill-willed supporters to hide behind. Who knows what might have happened without them?

For now, the major import of my argument regarding the settlements is that – wrongfully so, I emphatically state – they lost Israel the sympathy of most of the world. I know that many Israelis and Jews take defiant pride in surviving lo these couple of millennia without the rest of the world’s love and even in the face of its murderous despite, and with the same defiant pride I would never argue for currying favor with the rest of the world anymore than with the Palestinians. However, one needn’t shoot oneself in the knee to prove one’s stoic tolerance for pain – opportunities come on their own – and the settlements were a shotgun blast. It doesn’t hurt to have the support and sympathy of others.

My greatest purpose in my post, though, was to indicate the error of the developing Obama policy toward Israel, a policy that will not make the future easier for Israel, and that could inadvertently make it much worse, and that would not have been conceivable without the settlements.

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sshender March 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Trying to curry favour with the West and Arabs by dismantling the settlements is doomed to fail, because they ARE JUST AN EXCUSE rather than the cause for anti-Israeli sentiments. Moreover, by relenting to the PalArab demands and rewarding terrorism, we only encourage more of the same in future.

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sshender March 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm

You think that the settlements are a liability and a historical mistake, but are they really? That is to say, had they not been there, would Israel be better off than it is now? I highly doubt it. Being familiar with the Anti-Israeli sentiment in both the Arab and the Western world, and its underlying casues, is it really too much to say that the settlement make little, if any difference in the larger scheme of things? In fact it could only have been an error if – and only if – their absense had facilitated a better outcome to the situation right now, the chance for which are nonexistant. Since the settlements ARE NOT the underlying reason for the enmity towards Israel, calling them a mistake is akeen to blaming a rape victim for not wearing a chastity belt and aggrivating her assailant further by kicking and screaming.

At the moment, there are no indicators that any Palestinian state in the WB and Gaza is likely to arise, let alone a viable one. Therefore, Israel is condemned to many more years of policing the Palestinians Arabs (and deterring its Arab neighbour states) which will include military rull. Given this supposition, it is much easier to have control over the situation on the ground with Israeli presense (military or civilian) all over the West Bank.

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sshender March 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

A very good essay. But I still beg to differ on a few points.

The thing is, I too was once captive of the naive assumption that if we were only to dismantle the settlements, the conflict would come to an end. It took me a while to understand that the settlements are nothing but a red herring – a stick to beat Israel with by both the Arabs and the guilable (or maybe less so) West.

By now, it should be crystal clear to anyone even slightly familiar with internal Palestinian discourse and attitudes that removing the settlements would not matter or change the Pal. intransigence one bit.

Now, regarding whether the settlements were a mistake to begin with, it’s always easy to judge with hindsight. At the time when they were set up, the prevailing realities and attitudes were altogether different, for all parties involved.

Without the benefit of hindsight, if I were to step back to the early 70s, I’d say it made perfect sense to colonize the West Bank (no so much Gaza), from both strategical and moral POWs. The West Bank is high ground that – after the near defeat in 73 – was undersandably coveted as a strategic asset, in detterance and prevention. Second, since the territories were taken in a defensive war, and Jordan has ceded any claims to it afterwards, (Palestinian nationhood was only in its infancy), it made perfect sense that Jews be able to practice their right to live next to Judaism’s most sacred sites, like in Nablus and Hebron.

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YurasKarpau March 30, 2010 at 4:08 am

You are doing an analysis of “An Historic Error” in terms of relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That is, with a strong position on the weak.
But why do you exclude Israel’s relations with the Quartet on the Middle East (UN, EU, USA, Russia) and the Arab League?

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