I often hear the right-wing voices reiterate the mantra that the settlements aren’t an obstacle to peace. Which is, at best, phenomenally and stunningly ignorant. Having just been there myself a week ago, it sticks in my craw as the single biggest myth American Jews believe.
What’s a shame is that over here in the Diaspora, one could believe anything, but a quick jaunt around the territories will reveal the obvious truth. Just a 30 minute drive from Jerusalem down highway 443 will reveal the glaring inequalities between lush green settlement oases looming over dustbowl villages. It is no secret that much of these settlements are built on Palestinian land. A tour with a more discerning researcher will point out where buffer zones, checkpoints and JNF forests (yes, in the territories) strangulate the natural flow of people and goods.
Perhaps the myth is all the more infuriating because the average American Jew opposes the settlement enterprise and religious settlers, largely because they make the two-state solution more distant. But asked if the settlements themselves are an impediment to peace, most eagerly say that Palestinian outcries over their growth are misplaced. Certainly the Jewish establishment repeats it like a mediation. Thank God for the slow but vital progress of programs like Encounter which introduce rabbis, educators and federation types to life on the other side. Once you’ve seen the lay of the land from atop a tall hill in the West Bank, the question becomes why continue the construction, not why stop the construction.
Here, Nicholas Kristof opines via video about the shameful unfairness of Israel’s demolishing of Palestinian villages while settlements grow in the Southern Hebron Hills: