The third point of my proposed Democratic foreign policy platform was this:

Third, we’re going to stop Israel from building new settlements and push them to dismantle existing illegal ones;

I’d talked pretty extensively about it before:

But while we figure out how to deal with the charmingly erratic nature of the Palestinian polity, we need to do so from a position that is sustainable – militarily, economically, politically, and morally. And I’ve gotta question whether the current policies – of quietly burying a huge budget to subsidize people to move into the settlements, while talking about handing them back to the Palestinians – are sustainable on any of those grounds.

Militarily, the original justification for settlements was they would provide 24/7 sets of Israeli eyes to assure that there would be no pre-invasion buildup. Between satellite imagery and Predators, that justification seems pretty much evaporated at this point. I have to believe that in the face of constant, low-intensity attacks such as we are seeing now, the settlements cost a great deal more in readiness than they provide.

Economically, the Haaretz articles seem to speak for themselves.

Politically, I used to think that the slowly growing settlements were a ploy to induce the Arab world to hurry up and negotiate – if they waited too long, there wouldn’t be any land left over to make into Palestine. It may be that we’re hitting that point now (back to ‘Ruthless People’ again).

Note that this argument (that the occupation is such a ploy) is supported by a post by David Bornstein in Israpundit:

I propose that settlements be EXPANDED, new ones established and progressively more of Eretz Israel taken back and annexed on a sliding scale of time. Terror attacks will accelerate that process, and further, this policy publicly and aggressively announced. In other words, be good and we won’t kill you. The same applies to Hizballah.

The problem, of course, is who will pay.

The newspaper said it had given a team of reporters three months to interview officials, pore over ministry budgets and make calculations. The exercise was filled with frustration, but the conclusion drawn is that since 1967, Israel has spent roughly $10 billion on the settlements. Currently, the annual amount spent on settlements’ civilian needs is more than $500 million.

And the answer is that, fundamentally, we in the U.S.do.

U.S. assistance to Israel for fiscal year 2001 includes $1.98 billion in military aid (of which over $1.4 billion was earmarked for procurement from the United States) and economic assistance totaling $840 million.

Note that I don’t begrudge a dime of what we give Israel. But I’d like what we spend to be in Israel’s and then our interest, as opposed to the settlement policy, which I genuinely believe evolved as follows:

Once the West Bank, Golan, and Gaza had been conquered (in a war preempting a massive attack by the Arabs, let’s remember) certain forces within Israel wanted to keep them, as a kind of Eretz Israel. I tend to believe that the policy was very much a ‘Ruthless People’ one, in which by gradually building out a network of settlements, they would make it clear to the Palestinian forces that time was not on their side, and that they needed to settle.

For a variety of (mostly ignoble) reasons, the Palestinians refused to take the offer.

And so Israel is stuck with a hostage it doesn’t want and can ill afford.

Clearly, this policy of ‘civilian occupation’ is economically devastating to Israel (which we mask by loaning or granting the necessary funds). I’m hard pressed to believe that it isn’t militarily devastating as well, in the context of a terror war (as opposed to a conventional one). The burden of securing this scattering of small towns is immense.

From a Haaretz interview with reservists:

Samocha: “The energy that goes into maintaining `normal life’ there is inconceivable, not to mention the calculation of the economic cost versus the benefit. I’m not talking about the cost in the narrow sense – Doing a crude calculation, we found that the direct cost of the month that we served in Netzarim is NIS 12 million. Add to that the indirect costs and the sums are tremendous, I’m talking about the total cost of sanctifying the residency of 60 families, whose lives are in danger, and the lives of the soldiers guarding them, while gravely harming the lives of the Palestinians.”

Becker: “The issue isn’t money, but how we Israelis look within a society that allows the illusion of Netzarim to exist.”

‘The illusion of Netzarim.’ I certainly couldn’t put it any better.

We in the U.S. foot the bill for this. While our support for Israel’s right to exist securely cannot be challenged, I do believe that a full and frank discussion with the Israeli government on one simple point – the settlements must not be expanded by one house, and the illegal settlements must be permanently dismantled – until there is a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, or until we give up on peace, and frankly state that Israel has conquered and will keep the West Bank and Gaza.

27 thoughts on “Unsettling”

  1. A.L.,

    “…or until we give up on peace, and frankly state that Israel has conquered and will keep the West Bank and Gaza.”

    I don’t see how you reach this precise conclusion. While granting the West Bank and Gaza to Israel in perpetuity would clearly be the end of the “Palestinian state” idea, I do not see how that MUST translate to “giving up on peace.” I am not necessarily advocating this as a policy prescription, just pointing out that a one-state (Israel) solution is not incompatible with peace, long-term, assuming that the Palestinian terror organizations are eliminated.

    (Of course, a one-state [Palestinian] solution could also be peaceful, long-term, but most of the Jews in Israel would be dead–the “peace of the grave.” I’d consider this type of peace, and the circumstances leading up to it, to be intolerable, of course.)

  2. AL, you captured the essence of my beliefs as well. The settlement policy is half-assed, and if there is anything I hate, its a half-assed attempt at something. Either remove them all or let them whither on the vine, or announce an aggressive settlement approach to try and borker peace. The status quo is untenable, and hurts Israel morally and politically in international affairs.

  3. A.L.,

    If the Palestinians have no interest in co-existing with Israel (as their behavior and rhetoric show), how does removing land from their control harm the “peace process” which is in fact a war process?

    It is the Palestinians who are the impediment not the settlements.

    Israel is already near destruction “morally” in international affairs.

    There are ritual killings of Jews in France which have gone unremarked.


    Hitler had an anti-settlement policy not different from the Islamic’s anti-settlement policy. The question you have to ask yourself is: if the Islamics believe in Islam uber alles do we really have any one in that neck of the wods to negotiate with? Our policy with Hitler was unconditional surrender. How much more appropriate is that policy with orthodox Islam?

    No more deals. Unconditional surrender. We need to teach them the meaning of their religion.

  4. Then why dilly-dally around? Israel conquered the West Bank fair and square; why is it letting all those Palestinians occupy that valuable real estate?

    Heck I can agree with that, why ARE they dilly-dallying around? Force Jordan and Egypt to accept back the Palestinians they kicked out in the first place. People say mass transfer (ethnic transfer if you want to call it that) is tantamount to some of the greatest crimes in humanity, I say guess what, the Palestinians will be perfectly happy with the mass genocide of israeli jews. Find a better answer and I’ll have some hope, till then I got no hope for the palestinians and am really concerned about how israel is handling whole situation.

  5. A.L.,

    I think the answer is that like the people of Europe 1938 even at great risk they would prefer to try all means other than all out war to resolve the dispute.

    We are now (very roughly) at October 1939.

    For the politicians and military everthing has changed but the people are not yet on board. This however is slowly changing. Expect within a year or two an explicit Israeli policy of annexation in response to terror assaults. So far the policy is implicit.

    What I expect to see is the fence moving east as attacks continue.

    As long as the Palestinians have nothing to lose the war will continue. Moving the fence and relocating the Palis as the fence moves will give them an incentive to change their minds short of a Jordan style massacre.

    So far the Israelis have been in the reactive mode. I expect that to change obviously over the next year or two.

    It is my estimation that the policy decisions have already been made. Now it is just a matter of bringing the people along.

    If you read some of the mildly leftist observations on “Geneva” some have already come to the same conclusion I have.

    No peace, no land.

    i.e. if the Palis insist on war they will have no where to live. Perhaps 2,000 years of exile will moderate them a bit. It worked for the Jews.

  6. There shouldn’t be any connection, logically speaking, between the settlement policy and the immediate cessation of terrorist strikes.

    What I mean is that Israel can stop building settlements and indeed start dismantling existing settlements right now, and this will actually make Israelis more secure.

  7. praktike,

    Why disconnect the settlements and Palestinian terrorism? The whole rationale behind the diplomacy on the Israeli/Palestinian issue is “land for peace”–which is to say, Israel will give up land that it now holds, creating a Palestinian state, and the Palestinians will stop killing Israelis. Why not then say, “no peace, no land” and as the strikes continue, irrevokably take parcels of land off the table for the creation of a Palestinian state. If the strikes continue long enough, the Palestinian state idea will be de facto dead, but the blame for that will be squarely on the Palestinians, where it belongs.

    Now, I don’t like the whole “land for peace” idea anyway, because it is a primary example of “appeasement for terrorists.” However, if it’s going to be the dominant theme, it MUST have sufficient teeth in it to motivate a solution, and that solution MUST begin with an end to Palestinian terrorism.

  8. Sam, praktike –

    The disconnect is simple; the Palestinians haven’t accepted the linkage, and as praktike notes and I believe, “this will actually make Israelis more secure.”

    That’s what I believe.

    I don’t advocate closing the settlements down (except the free-lance ones). But i think that we need to stop – now – supporting adding to them.


  9. Israel is spending about 500 million dollars a year supporting settlements. Cut this in half and you have a quarter of a billion dollars that could go to other sectors of the Israeli economy. Settlements don’t make sense economically, militarily and politically. Its time to remove the freelancers, remove the small ones and fortify the rest.

  10. Here’s another thing: how on Earth can sombody justify raising children in one of these wildcat outposts? Kids have no idea about Judea and Samaria, political leverage, the ’67 war, etc.

    It’s terrible, irresponsible parenting.

  11. The settlements aren’t a homogenous block. Some of them (mostly in Hebron, Gaza and the central area of the West Bank) are filled with expand-Israel types. Others, like those in the old city of Jerusalem and the “Gush block”, are areas where the Jewish population was eliminated in ’48, and were heavily settled because of the symbolism. In the Jordan valley, the “watchpost” settlements you describe were established, and around Jerusalem suburbs arose.

    Talking about the settlements as if they’re all equivalent isn’t realistic. The central and Gaza settlements impede Palestinian movement, and prevent continuity of Palestinian land, so removing them makes sense before an agreement. Removing the watchpost settlements, as well as Israeli Rafa (at the very south tip of Gaza) will be necessary for a final agreement. But almost all agreements, including Camp David and Geneva, conclude that the Jerusalem settlements and the Gush block will stay part of Israel. So it’s difficult to imagine that closing them down will accomplish anything.

  12. vasi –

    Wasn’t at all suggesting closing down all the settlements; I agree that there are settlements, and settlements.

    But stopping the planned expansion (1,000 homes), and pulling down the ‘free-lance’ ones makes sense as a first step.


  13. In the broad picture I agree with A.L., but there are a few points he could have made and didn’t:

    1. The idea that the settlements will expand as punishment or threat for the Palestinians’ failure to abjure terror, and that their expansion will be frozen as a reward for Palestinian good behavior or concessions, sets up a perverse incentive for those Jewish settlers who pursue a different agenda, in which settlements are to expand regardless. Provoking and antagonizing Palestinians with the aim of continued violence promotes settlements under this hypothesis. And this has been put into practice by the most radical settlers at Hebron and other smaller sites, whose violent anti-Arab behavior is condemned (alas, talk is cheap) across most of the Israeli political spectrum.

    2. One can, I think, forgive the Palestinians for their extreme skepticism that all of the luxury housing (the established settlements generally much nice than housing inside the Green Line, which is dominated by Stalinist apartment blocs), not to mention the expensive transportation and utilities links, are just temporary and subject to removal after a suitable peace treaty. Basically, this idea is a rationalization by mainstream Israel for not doing more to stop the settlements before it’s too late. (I believe the disjunct between facts on the ground and promises at the conference table have a lot to do with how rapidly the territories were engulfed in violence in 2000.)

    3. A.L. has the wrong war for the real start of the settlement movement. There were a few settlements established after the 1967 War, most in the Jerusalem area. The campaign to truly “settle” the land to the inevitable dispossession of the Arabs came from the National Religious movement after the 1973 war. Their version: to lift the country out of the funk into which it had fallen after the disappointment in the readiness and performance of the government by rededication to Zionist ideals. Or you might see this as an attempt to lift the country out of the funk by picking on a group with almost no legitimate way to defend itself, unlike the somewhat improved armies of the Arab states.

    4. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish peace movement is not objecting to army and border police outposts in the territories which serve to further Israelis’ personal security. The idea that small civilian settlements (with women and children, and in the case of the ultra-Orthodox settlements, men who have opted out of all army training) has something to do with military security is risible, and I think the people who suggest it are mostly insincere. The security the settlers seek over the Palestinians is two-fold: first, psychological security in how the settlements and the consequent brutalization and helotization of Arab life in the territories establishes Israel as so much more powerful than the Arabs that the latter should give up and, second, for the believers who predominate in the settler movement, the religious security of getting right with the Big Guy.

    Jewish Israel. Democratic Israel. Land of Israel [w/ territories]. Pick any two out of three.

  14. Its amusing to see people with no responsibility for the security of Israel boldly proclaim that the settlements are the problem and that Israel will be safer without them. Especially since the actual terrorists don’t agree with that bold claim.

  15. Actually, Robin, my argument is that Israel will be safer if it stops growing – and possibly prunes – the settlements (hence stretching it’s military forces and budget thin, and hemmoraging huge amounts of cash into real esttae improviements and subsidies that could go into other, more productive parts of the Israeli economy).

    Make sense? It’s not a moral argument at all, even though I think there is a moral argument to make. The moral benefits, if any, are a laingappe.


  16. Can someone explain why the settlements are ANY problem in and of themselves (setting aside the exercise of drawing national boundaries)? The only explanation I can come up with is that certain Arabs in the territories don’t like living in close proximity to Jews. How is a two-state solution compatible with continued Arab objections to Jewish proximity?

    The reason I set aside the question of drawing national boundaries is this: if the Arabs of the region are comfortable living next door to a Jewish neighbor, which is an obvious precondition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, then it should not matter in which country the settlers live. If they find themselves outside the national boundary of Israel, they can either continue to live there in peace or move back within Israel proper.

  17. Sam Barnes, I’d say the root problem from the settlements is that the settlers are Israeli citizens to whom the democratic Israeli government is responsible, and the Palestinians aren’t. The result is a distortion of normal life and the rule of law.

    Talking about co-existence of Jews and Arabs inside a Palestinian state sounds great (to me too), but you have to realize that the [LINK][LINK] vanguard settlers aren’t any more interested in this than the Palestinians are. (I’m not referring to recent immigrants who live where they’re told or to Israelis who move to the territories for the luxury housing and tax breaks.)

    The arrangement, for example, where settlers who represent 0.5% of the population of the Gaza Strip (5,000 vs 1MM) hold over 10% of the land (I can’t find a reliable exact figure) couldn’t have arisen without its unilateral imposition by Israel, including land expropriations, and can’t possibly survive the end of the occupation. Nor, of course, are the settlers interested in a society where assault on Arabs and [LINK] vandalism of Arab property will be punished, which is frankly seldom the case now.

  18. Nor, of course, are the settlers interested in a society where assault on Arabs and vandalism of Arab property will be punished, which is frankly seldom the case now

    Andrew, this strikes me as dishonest. Not because the example of the olive groves is untrue. But it sidesteps the main issue (posed by Sam). The reason Jews could not live in the Palestinian State has little to do with “normal life”, the “rule of law”, “unilateral imposition by Israel”, let alone olive groves. If you were (or are) Jewish, you tell me why you could not live in a Palestinian State.

  19. Andrew,

    “The arrangement, for example, where settlers who represent 0.5% of the population of the Gaza Strip (5,000 vs 1MM) hold over 10% of the land (I can’t find a reliable exact figure) couldn’t have arisen without its unilateral imposition by Israel, including land expropriations, and can’t possibly survive the end of the occupation.”

    See, I don’t think this is true. Why couldn’t some of those 5,000 Jews be wealthy landowners? I wouldn’t be surprised if that ratio (0.5% of population holding over 10% of land) were true in regions of the U.S., for instance, so why isn’t it believable in Gaza?

    Also, by what mechanism do you think the status quo in land ownership would fail, given the end of the occupation? If you are predicting land seizures by the new government in Gaza, why would Israel agree to cede control to such a government?

    “Nor, of course, are the settlers interested in a society where assault on Arabs and vandalism of Arab property will be punished, which is frankly seldom the case now.”

    I think you are painting with an overbroad brush, at the least, with regard to the settlers. Even granting for sake of argument that the settlers have no respect for the rule of law where Arabs are concerned, why would this matter? If the settlers don’t like the rule of law being enforced, they can move. If, however, the law is being used as a weapon to persecute a Jewish minority that holds Israeli citizenship, the state of Israel would have the right and duty to intervene–which again begs the question, why would Israel agree to cede control of the West Bank to such a government?

    The settlers on the West Bank are, quite literally, a besieged minority. This is not to declare them collectively innocent of any provocative acts. However, I am still left with the conclusion that far and away the most serious provocation they provide to the surrounding Arabs is their mere proximity–and the objections to the settlements only demonstrates the non-viability of a Palestinian state any time soon.

  20. Gabriel, I think it’s a terrible shame that whatever Palestinian state emerges is highly unlikely to allow any Jewish residents at all. (Insert obligatory remark that Arabs live in Israel.) However, even if this were not the case, I can’t see the perpetuation of the settlements (except those near the Green Line likely to be annexed to Israel in a territorial exchange) is possible for two important reasons above and beyond the residual racism we can expect from the future Palestinian government. They are

    1. The Palestinians believe (correctly) that the size and locations of many settlements make no sense in the development of the public lands for the benefit of all residents of the future Palestine, not just Jewish settlers. In fact, they are deliberately counterproductive, having been placed to surround, divide, and cut off Arab villages. The rights of Jews to remain in Palestine will be doubtful enough, but the right to retain homes that the Palestinians feel were erected through misappropriation (and in some cases theft and fraud) by an occupation government in which they could not participate is expecting much too much. Palestine faces, in the settlements, the same problem as other colonized societies did (BTW, I borrow “colonized” from Thomas Friedman) about what to do with the colonialists’ property.

    2. The Jews in Hebron, Itamar, and Tapuach (as examples) have not the slightest interest in living peacefully in a Palestinian state. If I wanted a peaceful resolution to the conflict, I would have resettled the Jewish population in Hebron (which was expelled in a 1929 pogrom) with Jews looking for a way to live peacefully with their neighbors. What actually happened was an illegal squat (retroactively legalized) by Jews who literally believe in forcible expulsion (i.e., ethnic cleansing) of Arabs, and who have not hesitated to commit violent crimes towards this goal.

    Sam Barnes, you are probably confusing the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with some neighborhoods in the Jerusalem area where wealthy Jews have bought up Arab-owned houses for redevelopment. AFAIK, all of the settlements outside Israel proper (including Greater Jerusalem) have been constructed on State Land or on private land condemned by the State under eminent domain, certainly the vast majority. In fact, I don’t believe Israel permits private transfer of lands in the territories to Jews. Generally speaking, individual Jews don’t own land in either Israel or the territories in freehold, only in leasehold. (Exceptions: Jews who held Ottoman land titles and Jews who have bought land Arabs held from Ottoman land titles.) There is no free real estate market in the Gaza Strip with little classified ads offering vacant Lots For Sale. I wouldn’t support seizure of land owned by Jews that had been properly bought and paid for, but in the case of most of the settlements, this is a completely moot point. (BTW: do Arabs ever get compensation for property they lost inside Israel, or does this process run only one way?)

    As for your other point: the settlers establish communities with neighbors who have no control over the public lands adjacent to their homes, who have no political representation with which to combat the establishment of such settlements, and who (unlike the settlers) live under either Israeli martial law or a thuggish Palestinian satrapy. Settlers even take some properties (e.g., in Hebron) by mass trespass on private lands, whose owners have been unable to obtain redress in the Israeli court system. Then the settlers feel “besieged”! Like the man who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan!

    Israelis living inside the Green Line feel besieged these days, and that’s a tragedy. For the settlers, it’s a tragedy of their own making.

  21. Andrew,

    I was hoping Joe Katzman or A.L. would comment on this issue too, since they probably know more than I do, and I’d like to hear a diversity of viewpoints on the issue. Don’t get me wrong, your information is also much appreciated.

    I was broadly familiar with the situation you describe in Jerusalem, but I don’t see why the same pattern couldn’t explain the Gaza distribution of property you estimated (0.5% of the population owning 10%+ of the land). I don’t see how settlement activity could explain this disparity, but the wealthy landowner plus redevelopment scenario seems entirely plausible. Are those 5,000 Jews actually living in settlements that comprise ~10% of the Gaza Strip? I do not know one way or another, but it seems unlikely to me.

    I’ll get back to the rest of your post later, because I have to run now.

  22. Check out what’s happening in Kosovo “Ethnic cleansing, smuggling rampant under UN’s aegis”:

    “Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.

    In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.”

    The UN gets a wall. India gets a wall. But it’s Israel that gets condemned for its wall. Condemned by the very organization that is building its own wall…

  23. Sam, Jerusalem is exceptional because (1) we’re talking about buying up existing housing which, unlike most of the country, is held in freehold; and (2) although the international community doesn’t agree, all of the city is within Israel for Israeli law.

    The situation in the territories is different. Usually a settlement, or for that matter a new town inside Israel, is created at the central government’s decision. Almost all vacant land belongs to the State or (within Israel) to the parastatal Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund. The government puts construction of the community out to bid. It is also announced for whom the community is being created, e.g., secular Jews, or the national religious community, one or another of the ultra-Orthodox houses, or perhaps unrestricted (Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore).[fn 1] Needless to say, the interests of the Palestinian residents of the territories are nowhere represented in this process.

    In the case of settlements, an alternative scenario sometimes takes place: a group of settlers takes a group of mobile homes and sets up shop on a hillside. Eventually the government caves in and provides armed protection; roads and utilities links follow (“After all, we can’t just leave them out there defenseless.”) Very occasionally the government orders removal of these “wildcat” settlements, but peace activists usually discover the settlers return to the original location or nearby after the cameras have gone away.

    [fn 1] The government appoints committees to vet applicants to restricted communities that act like coop boards. The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered that these no longer discriminate against Israeli Arabs, but the decision was reviled more than the American Pledge of Allegiance case and has not been enforced.

    Incidentally, in a Nixon-to-China move, Sharon announced early in his first term that he was considering construction of a new town for Arabs in the Galilee (where heretofore Jewish towns have been established surrounding Arab towns to prevent their expansion). Nothing came of it: there has not been a new town established for Arabs in the Galilee or Triangle since the founding of the State.

  24. Yawn. Neither side over there wants peace. Neither side wants to do what’s necessary to achieve peace. A pox on both their houses.

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