Monday, July 4, 2016

Israeli Settlements: A Policy Worth Pursuing - Jacob Bernstein

by Jacob Bernstein

The Palestinians have been offered their own state at least three times, in 2000, 2001, and 2008, and each time it was the Palestinians who refused to take the offer of most of the land they claimed they wanted, and live in peace with Israel.

Israel has recently decided to allocate millions of dollars to the construction of settlements in Judea and Samaria. Of course, this has produced anger among those who believe in the “two-state fantasy” of an Arab state and a Jewish state peacefully and cooperatively living side by side. As the fantasists see it, those darned Israelis are always such a nuisance -- building homes in their ancestral land, shattering the dreams of a people who are not a people, and throwing the Middle East into chaos once again. If the Israeli right wing that governs the country was not so closeminded and would just give peace a chance and the Jews and the Palestinians could be the best of friends.

However, in the real world, people know, or should know, that none of these things are true.  The Palestinians have been offered their own state at least three times, in 2000, 2001, and 2008, and each time it was the Palestinians who refused to take the offer of most of the land they claimed they wanted, and live in peace with Israel. Further, it is not Israel that has thrown the Middle East into chaos, but Islamist extremism in the region, especially from the Shia Islamists in Iran. Also, the much-vilified Israeli settlements are not an impediment to peace in the region, but are a necessity for Israel to provide security and protect its Jewish heritage and identity.

The idea that building homes is the cause of this conflict is ridiculous, because there was conflict even before there was any Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria. When the Arabs refer to “occupation,” most often they mean Jewish “occupation” of the entire land of Israel. The evidence lies in not just their words and chants of “from the river to the sea,” but also in their actions, especially pre-1967, before Israel took Judea and Samaria from the invading Jordanians. History has demonstrated that the Palestinian Arab population has never been willing to agree to peace as long as there would be a Jewish state next to the Arab state. When Israel was first created and allotted a sliver of land, it was attacked by five Arab armies vowing to drive its residents into the Mediterranean. And since then, whenever Israel offered generous peace proposals, meeting almost all of the Palestinian Arab demands, the offers were still rejected because they required recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Settlements in Judea and Samaria actually are vital to Israeli national security. If “Palestine” were created in Judea and Samaria, it would likely become another hotbed for terrorists, like in Gaza. This is incredibly dangerous, as there would be parts of Israel only nine miles wide but still containing the vast majority of the Israeli population which would be trapped between Arab terrorists and the sea. The settlements in Judea and Samaria were established to widen Israel’s narrowest width, which ensures Israel will have a route to the Jordan Valley if Israel is forced to fight a war to the east. Further, Judea and Samaria are positioned on a formidable mountain range, towering over central Israel. Without Israeli control or presence there the IDF would not be able to prevent Arab Katyusha rocket fire that has in range over 70% of Israel’s population and 80% of her industrial base.

Advocates of Israeli withdrawal argue that Israel cannot control entire swaths of land with such a large number of Arabs because if Israel were to annex Judea and Samaria and grant citizenship to the Arab residents, the Jewish character of the State would be destroyed. However, this is not true. There will still be far more Jews in Israel than Arabs, despite overcounting of the Arab population, if the Arabs remain in Judea and Samaria after an Israeli annexation. In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, the birth rate among Jews is growing and close to surpassing that of the Arabs, so as time goes on, the numbers will continue to favor the Jewish majority.

The other benefit of increased settlement activity in Judea and Samaria is that it reconnects the Jews to more of their homeland. Many of the ancient holy cities and sites in the heart of the Israelite kingdoms are located in Judea and Samaria. Tel Aviv just does not bear the same religious significance as areas like Nablus, where Joseph’s Tomb is located, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city of Hebron. Currently, Jews do not have full rights to access all of their own places of worship because of the large Arab presence in Judea and Samaria. The settlements seek to continue to re-establish the Jewish people as a nation on their historical land, hence they are not just a matter of security policy, but also security of heritage, and that is the entire reason for the Jewish State of Israel.

So when we read articles detailing how Israel will allocate more funds to the construction of settlements, we should not lament the destruction of the peace process and the two-state solution. What has killed the peace process has been Arab intransigence and incitement against Jews, and not Israeli settlements. In fact, these settlements are necessary to provide greater security for Israel from the hostile Arab population. True supporters of Israel should rejoice as settlement building strengthens Israel’s defenses and allows Zionism to flourish so that Jews can return to all of their homeland and rebuild what was laid to waste thousands of years ago.

Jacob Bernstein is an intern at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)


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