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.