Why the settlements *are* an obstacle to peace

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:

17 thoughts on “Why the settlements *are* an obstacle to peace

  1. Just saw the Encounter website.
    Sorry, but the program doesn’t look nearly as much fun as Birthright. That may be why it can only claim 750 alumni.
    Also the page with the alumni descriptions-don’t any of them have last names?

  2. It is funny, in a way, that this is the same Kristoff who referred to Palestinians as “dabbling” in nonviolence. Yet here he shows his awareness of and sympathy with Palestinians remaining on their land, even if it means living in tents and caves, despite the efforts of the Israeli government and settlers to get them to leave. Many acts of nonviolent resistance do not look like protest demonstrations.

  3. Which is, at best, phenomenally and stunningly ignorant.
    But asked if the settlements themselves are an impediment to peace, most eagerly say that Palestinian outcries over their growth are misplaced.
    You’re right. If we can just remove the Gaza settlements, then we’ll be far along toward Israeli-Palestinian peace, in Gaza and in southern Israel.

  4. “Got a problem with that”
    Yes I do. There are some ethnic groups who’s members have only one name. None of these ethnic groups have Jews in them.
    I suspect that Encounter has very few Jewish alumni, and given what you said, namely that these people don’t have last names, then these alumni can’t be Jews.

  5. Poor Dave. He wants to track down individuals for likely malicious purposes, and the site makes it a teensy bit hard.
    Did he just compare metrics for a small nonprofit versus a state funded group giving FREE trips to young people? Sheesh.

  6. I don’t want to track down people for malicious puroposes (if I did, I’d be all over this Wilensky fellow). I’m a wonderful peace-loving fellow.
    And if ‘Encounter’ does not get state-funding, well who’s fault is that? There are about 180 countries worldwide, you know.

    1. Dave Boxthorn writes:
      And if ‘Encounter’ does not get state-funding, well who’s fault is that?
      Thanks for being vigilant with the scare quotes. As we all know, the organization’s real name is HUSSEIN.

  7. But asked if the settlements themselves are an impediment to peace, most eagerly say that Palestinian outcries over their growth are misplaced.
    Many of us left-leaning centrists have complicated feelings when it comes to settlements.
    On the one hand, I agree that many settlements (and certainly the fascist attitude of the settler movement in general) are an obstacle to peace. I support stopping expansion, a zero tolerance policy for settler violence, forcible removal of illegal outposts, and doing everything we can to restore Palestinian lands that were misappropriated and to enable free movement of Palestinians within the West Bank.
    But I also believe it’s crucial to define what exactly constitutes a “settlement” before making blanket statements about their obstruction of peace. Is the Jewish Quarter of the Old City a settlement, for example? It is on the other side of the Green Line, after all, and was part of Jordan from 1948 to 1967 just like the rest of the West Bank (as well as areas like Gilo and Ramot where I doubt most Jewish peacniks would oppose new construction, but that still appear as “settlements” on many maps).
    Most of the recent noise about “settlement” construction, however, has focused on other areas of Jerusalem that were annexed by Israel in 1967 (as opposed to parts of the West Bank that Israel continues to view as “occupied territory”). And while I tend to agree that building new Jewish housing in Jerusalem neighborhoods that have long been Arab or that create a barrier between two Arab neighborhoods is bad policy from a pragmatic long-term peace-planning perspective (since I believe that any viable two-state solution must include both Israeli and Palestinian capitals in Jerusalem and therefore having contiguous Arab neighborhoods is important), the idealist in me struggles with the idea that there are areas where Jews shouldn’t be allowed to live.
    I particularly struggle with that issue in places like Hebron. The status quo in Hebron is absolutely deplorable, but the only real alternative appears to be banning Jews from living there, because if the IDF doesn’t continue to protect them, there is little question in my mind that any Jews who choose to remain (and I think that some of them are crazy enough to do so) will be slaughtered. And how is it just to say that Jews can’t live in one of the holiest cities in our religion, a city where Jews have had an almost continuous presence for millennia? Ultimately I think such a ban may be a necessary if there is to be any hope of peace, but the thought makes me very, very sad.
    And that doesn’t even begin to address the macro security issues for Israel as a whole. You can argue (and I tend to believe) that restrictions on Palestinian movement and the gross inequalities of Jews and Arabs in the West Bank breed hatred and terrorism and thus harm Israel’s security in the long term. But if we have learned anything from the Gaza pull-out, it is that wholesale abandonment of settlements does not necessarily alleviate that problem. So we need thoughtful, careful approaches to addressing the long-term status of the settlements.

  8. IF someone has the goal of reversing right wing orthodox Jewish hegemony in Israel advancing a Haskalah agenda, I can’t imagine a better method than seeing a flourishing Tel-Aviv welcoming the last holdouts from the last settlements across the Green Line. On gay pride day. With Dov Khenin as mayor.
    May it be in our days amen.

  9. I live in Efrat, in Gush Etzion. I know that slander is the lingua franca of the internet, but referring to me, my family and my neighbors as “fascists” is so off the mark as to be ridiculous. From such a starting point, there is no room for listening, but I wished at any rate to register my protest. You are welcome to visit us next time you are in the area.

  10. some of the settlers are an obstacle, no doubt about it, but mostly its the Palestinians who are there own obstacle. How the hell is Ramallah making it into the NY Times travel section, while so many of its people are living in squalor. Same in Gaza, oppressed as they might be, starving as they might be, but they sure did figure out how to build a new mall, a luxury hotel, a beautiful new swimming center…etc. How can we take seriously this group of people? As much as I keep my politics as partisan as possible, I have really hard time beliving the Palestinian side of the argument (especially the far left, hyper over dramatized version).
    ever wonder, what if the Palestinians were bank rolled by some of the countries in the Arab World, just as Israel is by the US and the West.

  11. and these are bedouins in this video who live in squalor inside of Israel as well…
    I say let them build a home…and have the PLO supply them with water and power

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