Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gadi Taub Of Hebrew University: Settlements Endanger Israel's Vital Interests

Arab League ministers agreed with the Palestinian halt to peace talks following the end of the Israeli freeze on settlement construction. The league agreed to give the U.S. a month to resolve the impasse. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is pondering an American offer of security and political guarantees in exchange for extending the freeze for 60 days; Netanyahu is concerned about keeping his mostly right-leaning coalition together. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has staked his credibility on ending the talks upon the resumption of settlement construction.

This is the latest episode in the settlements' status as an obstacle to the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two-state solution. Gadi Taub (above), assistant professor at Hebrew University and author of "The Settlers and the Struggle Over the Meaning of Zionism," warns in Dissent Magazine that the settlements pose a clear danger to  to Israel's survival:

Why then does Netanyahu’s administration insist on renewing settlement construction? The reason is a combination of short-sighted security arguments, cynical political considerations, and conservative habits of mind. In terms of security, Netanyahu believes that the officially temporary occupation can be extended more or less indefinitely, and that this is the only way to keep terrorism in check; politically he wishes to appease his religious coalition partners, without which his government may collapse; and lastly, his conservative outlook still rests on the sense that the more Israel encroaches on the future territory of Palestine, the safer it would be.

This is a dangerous game to play. Because in the long run, it endangers Israel’s most vital interests. The longer the occupation lasts, the more Israel is perceived as a colonial power, bent the subjugation of another people. Further settlement seems to the world as proof of this, and the forces bent on delegitimizing the right of Jews to self-determination are gaining momentum. Even Israel’s allies are beginning to feel uncomfortable. Jews worldwide increasingly feel the need to put a distance between themselves and Zionism.

But what is worse is that eventually this encroachment on the future Palestine will not achieve Netanyahu’s goals—it will achieve the goal of religious settlers. If they have their way, their asphalt and concrete will prevent partition into two states and will drown the ship of Zionism in a Lebanon-like bi-national swamp. Religious settlers are therefore not just a clear and present danger to peace, or to peace talks, but an existential threat to Zionism itself. Supporting settlement is an anti-Zionist stance. The grounds for resisting the settlers’ enterprise are not only the right of Palestinians to self-determination but also the right of Jews to self-determination. Zionists and their allies must therefore oppose further settlement, for Israel’s, not just Palestine’s, sake.


Michael The Molar Maven said...

As you know, I associate with many people who are unwavering supporters of Israel - Israel can do no wrong. Arabs and Palestinians cannot be trusted. It seems as if their justification for the settlements is that "they" got what "they" deserved. That is, if they had acted like a "civilized" people way back in 1948, 1956 and 1967, there would never have been a "need" for the settlements in the first place. I asked a few of my friends why they believe that it is Israel's job to "punish" the Palestinian people. They totally deny that it is punishment. But,by their rationalization, that's precisely what it is.

Israel should extend the moratorium on the building of settlements, for no other reason other than that they risk the support of Americans who are not unwavering.

Unfortunately there is the appearance that Palestinian life is less sacred than Israeli life and, I'm afraid, that the American Jewish Community is doing far too little to dispel this notion. If Obama doesn't prevail in his opposition to the settlements, it may do irreparable harm to our position as peace broker in the Middle East. I hope Netanyahu eventually comes to understand this.

Jeff Tone said...

Israel should also extend the moratorium due to the risk of the negotiations falling apart.

I don't believe that the American Jewish community is monolithic in its opinions on the conflict. Support for J Street, the "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group, demonstrates that there are American Jews who dissent from the building of settlements.