Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Settlement issues

I often hear the assertion Israel's West Bank settlements are illegal, and I expected to be able to find a clear statute, treaty or some such which the existence of the settlements unquestionably contravenes. However, after several days of research, and with the full understanding I am not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV), while I still feel the weight of the arguments supports the claim the settlements are illegal, I am forced to concede there is more murkiness surrounding the issues than I expected.

What isn't murky is there will be no lasting peace in the region until those settlements are removed, and Israel's prospects for future security necessitate removing them.

For decades now most parties have agreed a "two-state" approach is the only one which can be successful, and for a separate Palestinian state to be feasible Israel would have to cede control of the West Bank to a new, independent, Palestinian nation. Despite this general acknowledgment, however, the number of Israeli settlers in West Bank territories has continued to grow, from 110,000 in the early 1990's to nearly 300,000 today ... without counting East Jerusalem (which I see as a separate issue).

Not surprisingly, Palestinians view this continuing influx of settlers as tantamount to explicit sabotage of any peace negotiations. The logic is not hard to follow - if all parties agree peace requires a separate Palestinian state, and that state will be founded in the West Bank, yet Israel continues to actively claim more land in the West Bank, Israel must not seriously desire peace.

A number of Israelis have suggested any serious effort to forcibly remove the settlements might well lead to an Israeli civil war, which is not a pleasant prospect. It is, however, a threat which Israel has to stop tap-dancing around and confront the issue. Making a clear, large, concerted effort to remove the settlements would do more to promote peace and security in the region than any number of bombs dropped in Lebanon or Gaza.

The vast majority of Israeli settlers are themselves religious extremists, who hold the entire country hostage to their demands that Arabs be evicted from the "Promised land". Moderate Israeli's, by-and-large, seem fed up and exasperated with them, yet little is done to rein them in. Until Israel gets serious about dealing with its own extremists, why should they expect Palestinians to be serious about dealing with theirs?

4 comments:

Framer said...

Sirocco,

You were right with your original opinion.

Israel pulled all of its settlers out of the Gaza region, and what were the results of that? Did it increase goodwill? Did it move any peace process further. It resulted in more power for Hamas and more shelling from the undefended territory.

The assumption that there is actually a framework for two states side-by-side is also false. Hamas makes no secret about its plans, 'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.'

There are no easy solutions, but to place every ounce of blame on Israel for everything that happens is simply blindness. Glad to see you consistently acknowledge that fact.

Sirocco said...

Hamas is not the only representative of Palestinians. One could make a case that, in addition to frustration at the corruption of the prior government, frustration at the lack of progress toward a two-state solution was the second major contributing factor in Hamas winning the election.

The number of Israeli settlers in Gaza was a drop in the bucket compared to the number in the West Bank, and the situation had been deteriorating a long time before Israel moved to pull those settlers out.

Framer said...

Sirocco,

Hamas is the elected representatives of the Palestinians, so they are indeed the face of the people.

Again, there is no two state solution as far as the Palestinians are concerned, there never has been, nor is there likely ever to be. That is entirely a Western conceit.

If you have evidence to the contrary, I could be pursueded otherwise.

In actuality, however, "Palestine" as a land is just an imaginary construct anyway (at least if you don't consider Israel legitimate, and are consistent.) It would be just as correct to have the land reabsorbed by Jordan on one side and Egypt on the other, but Jordan and Egypt want nothing to do with them.

Framer said...

Sirocco,

I don't know if you noticed this, but it is pretty interesting considering this discussion:

Gaza War Leads to Drop in Palestinian Support for Hamas