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 Settlements and Peace

 By Yitzhak Frankental

People identified with the peace camp tend to think that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. I would like to analyze this argument. Moreover, I would like to undermine it. We should remember that the settlements were established at the beginning of the seventies. The aim behind it was the settlement of Great Israel, on the ground that Eretz Israel belongs to the Jewish people. Indeed, from religious and historic perspectives, Eretz Israel was promised to the patriarchs, to Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov (Jacob), and this promise was given about two thousand years before the appearance (or beginning) of Islam. We shall come back later to the meaning of G-d’s promise and its influence to this very day. The people that begun settling the land, did it with devoted passion, convinced that they are the true Zionists, they are the emissaries of the people in this mission, they are those that stand at the vanguard of this effort. Israeli governments, since the seventies, stammered on the issue of the settlements. Sometimes they supported them, sometimes they opposed them, sometimes they launched new settlements, and sometimes they uprooted settlers. The stammering was the result of the lack of a consistent peace policy, that stemmed actually from the lack of willingness of the Palestinians to make peace, from their non recognition of Israel’s right of existence until the beginning of the nineties, and also from their lack of a deep understanding of the concept of peace and the fact that no Palestinian leadership supported peace. The stammering was also the result of the understanding that it is impossible to settle people in the middle of a hostile population, and that clashes between both populations are only a matter of time. Everybody understood that it is not possible to dominate another people, everybody knew as from the early eighties that the problem of the Palestinian identity will only be solved in the frame of a Palestinian state. In the meantime the settlements multiplied and the Palestinian uprising against the settlers grew accordingly, and with it many bloody events, that strengthened the settlers’ conviction that they are emissaries of the people, pioneers at the political and the settling fronts. The settlers became deeply convinced that they defend Israel with their bodies. The Israeli public saw the struggle of the settlers as the struggle for our right to settle in every corner of the country, a struggle for our right to materialize G-d’s promise that we mentioned above. Obviously, the vicinity of the settlers to a hostile Arab population developed security problems, a need to defend the settlers, which brought also a heavier burden of the occupier over the Palestinian public. So, for instance, the Palestinians view how the settlements developed: gardens, sidewalks, private villas and public buildings were built, whereas on the Palestinian side a terrible backwardness was kept, the sewage running on the main street, the homes not connected to the electricity power, to the running water, lacking refrigerators, television sets, not to mention kindergartens, poor and scarce schools, that increased and deepened the hatred and the hostility. The Palestinians also viewed the special treatment that the settlers got from the military authorities, as compared to the humiliation felt by the those of them willing to travel from one spot just a short distance from the other, from one Israeli checkpoint to another, waiting in a queue to be asked the same humiliating questions, and reaching their destination hours later instead of minutes. This is a daily experience that the Palestinians know till today. There is no doubt that an insulting and humiliating approach caused hatred and hostility against settlers, and these caused an increased security burden on the Palestinians. Out of 157 settlements that were built, some were security settlements, some were political settlements, some were reinforced by adding settlers, and some remained small, inhabited by a few tens of settlers. The security concept that guided the heads of the defense system, was the narrow waist of the country, in the Kfar Sava area. It was decided to broaden this space between Israel and the border of the future Palestinian State, through the establishment of settlements. Beyond that, there was the supremacy of the Great Israel ideology, and this was the central factor that dictated a massive settling effort.

The question is not who is a settler but rather which settlements might stay under Israeli soveranity and which not. I said that the question is not who is a settler, because in the eyes of the Israelis there are about 200,000 settlers whereas according to the Palestinians the number of settlers is of about 400,000, as they count those people that live in the neighborhoods around Jerusalem, like Pisgat Zeev, Givat Zeev, Ramot, Maale Edumim, and other. I said that the question is which settlement will be annexed to Israel, and the answer should be found in the maximum number of settlers that are living in the minimal area to be taken from the Palestinians, and on exchange of which, they will receive an equal area attached to the Gaza strip. It is important to annex as many settlers as possible, because peace should not cause civil war within Israel, and the more settlers to be annexed to Israel (80%), the less bitterness, and peace will be possible with the Palestinians, following the evacuation of the remaining settlers from the territories that will not be annexed to Israel. Settlers should not be left within the Palestinian State, and each settlement that will not be annexed, will be evacuated. Only the most extreme of the settlers will be ready to live under Palestinian rule, and they will cause the next war between us. There is another reason: although it is clear that the peace between Israel and Palestine will not cause a sprout of love between the two peoples, it will finally enable educate and teach them to live in a dignified way one besides the other. This will not happen immediately, and I would not like to endanger any Israeli whatsoever. The multiplication of settlers and settlements in Judea and Samaria caused the Palestinians to understand that if they do not hurry to make peace with the Israelis, more settlers will be coming to Judea and Samaria, and this will impede the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. I do believe that the settlements are the very reason that pushed Arafat to begin the peace talks. If so, we may say that the settlers were not obstacles to peace, but catalysts of peace. The question is if today they contribute to peace or they are an impediment to peace. I would like to discuss here the religious meaning of the settlements. We have the divine promise that "I shall give the land to your offspring", but this is only one side of the pact between G-d and the people of Israel. The other side of the pact, is the commitment to fulfill the precepts, the mitzvoth, the commitment to serve G-d. We regret that the majority of the Jewish people do not fulfill the mitzvoth, and in any case the pact on the Greater Land of Israel can not be fulfilled. In discussions with settlers and with religious people from the Right I learn unequivocally that they consider the settling of the Land a part of their service to G-d. This is simply Avodah Zarah, idolatry. Never happened that Jews served G-d through dominance of a piece of land. Moreover, they cause pikuach nefesh; they endanger life not only at the settlements, but within Israel too, due to the fact that the effervescence of the Palestinians resulting from the lack of peace results in terrorist actions within Israel. I do not blame the settlers of causing terror. The murderers that hit us are the ones to be blamed. But I am full with anger with these people that are staying at the political settlements, which everybody knows that they will not be kept on place after peace with the Palestinians will be reached. At the head of these settlements is Netzarim. I have no doubt that the people of Netzarim, Kfar Darom, and other settlements, are the best of the Jewish people, that they believe full-heartedly that they defend with their presence Tel-Aviv and the whole state. Their inner truth – although in my opinion and in the opinion of my friends it is a messianic truth, not correct and not positive – gives them the strength to stand even at the most difficult situations. I do not appreciate this standing, I do not have the slightest understanding for this standing, I believe that the day will come when these people will be profoundly sorry for their deeds, after we’ll reach peace. I am blamed of hating settlers, particularly after the Netzarim letter that I wrote with pain. Do I hate the settlers? My blatant answer is NO. I wish to be hated as I hate them, to be loved, as I love them. I deeply appreciate these people; I reject the messianic belief, the idolatry that they perform. There is an additional element to be analyzed, but I shall leave it to their conscience. Is it right to relinquish 7% of the territory attached to the Gaza Strip in exchange for 7% of Judea and Samaria that will be annexed to Israel, where more than 80% of the settlers live? I don’t know why 7% attached to Gaza is less holy than the 7% where the settlers that will be annexed to Israel are living. Another important point to take in account. The overwhelming majority of the settlers are respectful of the law. They reject violence. They are people with high human values, integrity and moral. On that day, on the day when the peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians will be signed, the treaty that will establish that the Palestinians have no more demands from Israel and that it puts an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on that very day, the settlers will have to take dramatic decisions, not only for them but for the whole people. Their decisions will determine if they will be part of the people or will tear it, if they will be part of the peace or enemies of peace. I have no doubt about the answer. These are people respectful of the law, these are people of quality, they will cry with me but they will accept the bitter decision. Only a slight margin, only some of the extremists, a small percentage will try to stop the peace, but we’ll then see how the quality defeats the rot. We’ll see the settlers defending the law and democracy and acting to get national unity, against the extremists and the messianic ones. Finally, there is no doubt that we’ll witness heart-breaking scenes when the moment of removing settlers from settlements that will not be annexed to Israel (about 90 out of 157) will arrive. We shall have to show empathy towards those settlers. Not to rejoice at their calamity, not tell them "didn’t we tell you…?", but stretching at them a warm hand, a hand of brothers. Indeed, settlements caused the beginning of the peace process. Will they stretch a hand to peace…?

15/11/00 - CHAOS

Arafat has reached the conclusion (unfortunately, correct) that he will not be able to reach an agreement that meets his aspirations i.e., sovereignty over El-Akza and the Arab sectors of the Old City and East Jerusalem. Barak, on his part, has conceded the maximum possible in line with his conviction, and has not received sympathy and acceptance from Arafat. Arafat has issued an edict for chaos thinking that force and terror will enable him to fulfill his expectations.

Barak, who wants to avoid escalation, severance of relationship with other Arab nations, end of the bloodshed and a peace agreement with the Palestinians, wants to fulfill his expectations of peace. He avoids as much as is a possible severe and harsh response, knowing that if he adopts a harder line Palestinians will be viewed as David against Goliath. Any harsh response may bring Arabs from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and other Arab states to run wild and force their country to declare war against Israel. I should almost say that I wish us Jews, in the years we have encountered terrible sufferings, that countries had come to our defense as the Arab states will do to the poor Palestinians against the almighty Israel.

So what will happen?

Can Israel continue to bury its dead?

The future does not hold tranquility. On the contrary, more and more attempts will be made to strike on settlers as well as inside Israel. What would happen if, God forbid, settlements are raided leaving scores of people dead? Could Barak continue his restraint?

Could I restrain myself having seen my brothers and sisters bleed? True, I do not endorse some of the settlements but does that mean I am prepared to see my brothers and sisters suffer? No, I could not. Certainly I know that there are some purely political settlements such as all the settlements in the Gaza strip, Kiriat Araba, Hebron, Psagot and many others. What are they there for? I may not approve their existence but does that mean I can sit idle whilst they bleed? They are still my brothers and sisters even if they are wrong.

Could the Palestinians endure more and more deaths?

The closure of borders between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has put 100,000 people out of work. How will they make a living? Do they have anything to lose? Does the closure push them to acts of despair? Are we not pushing them to become suicide bombers or freedom fighters?

All these harsh events were foreseen and expected and many warning were given of the need to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians for fear that should they conclude they have no chance to reach peace, utter chaos will ensue causing further terrible bloodshed.

Unfortunately we see this happening now. All those "wise guys" who say "you were warned", "don’t give them rifles" or "there is no one to make peace with" are people who were mistaken, misleading and will continue to make mistakes in the future.

The "wise guys" are mistaken as guns don’t kill, people behind them do. Explosives don’t blow up by themselves but the suicide bomber explodes them. Those people were mistaken since one talks to the enemy, and one makes peace with the enemy. They are wrong in thinking that that the Palestinian spirit can be broken down, it cannot, since their fight is just. We were equally just when we fought against the British and the Palestinians are just when they fight against us. The Palestinians need and want a state of their own. Will they continue to mislead by saying "we told you so". What did they tell us? That it is possible to rule over another nation? That it is possible to continue the occupation? What did they tell us? That the more settlements the more security in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem? What will they tell us? If we are in such a catastrophic state, what can be done? Was there shooting on Gilo in the past? Was there not a relative calm during the 4 years when the Palestinians dreamt of realizing their vision of a sovereign state?

The answer is solely in the hands of Ehud Barak. If Barak will come to the understanding that peace with the Palestinians will not be possible without Palestinian sovereignty over El-Kouds, and Palestinian sovereignty over the Arab sectors of East Jerusalem and the Old City, if he will understand that this is the only way the make peace, only then will there be security, calm and peace.

Arafat too must understand that as soon as a peace treaty that solves the Jerusalem problem is signed, he must undertake to end the conflict in writing. He must declare and sign that the Palestinians have no further demands on Israel and he must sign an agreement that includes an historical reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. He must also begin to educate his schoolchildren to live in mutual respect with Israelis and he must uproot the hatred from his schools.

Palestinians must understand that Israel will not be able to recognize the right of return to a single Palestinian. If Israel will recognize the right of return or will take responsibility for the flight of Palestinians in l948 and l967, according to international law every Palestinian will be able to return to Israel. It will mean the return of several millions who will bring an end to the State of Israel. If the Palestinians fail to understand this, the alternative will mean that we shall have to continue living on our swords. There is not one single Israeli in the peace camp of which I am a part, who will be prepared to the return of millions of Palestinians back to Israel. Yes, Israel can and should return a certain number of Palestinians as a humanitarian act such as family reunions, but on strict legal criteria that will not put Israel in an impossible position as far as international law is concerned.

What will happen if we do not reach these solutions? It may be that Israel will resolve to eliminate the Palestinian leaders. Perhaps several Palestinian leaders will be killed. And what then? Will we not find ourselves sitting with those who replace them and again resume the peace talks?

The terrible tragedy in this situation is that it is clear what needs to be done, but there is a real fear of real solutions and the need to confront reality.

Barak can win the elections only if he reaches an agreement that will provide security. Even if this agreement will mean a painful compromise in Jerusalem as I have indicated. Barak knows that there is no problem with the Halacha to grant Palestinians sovereignty over Temple Mount. What is needed is a Barak with vision, Barak with the courage to reach the right decision. Barak, and only Barak, can do this. General Barak who has seen so much bloodshed is the right person to prevent continuous bloodshed. Barak the General know that we can defeat armies but no one has so far been able to defeat citizens.

This is basic combat rule. A boy and a girl will overcome tanks but a tank will never overcome a boy and a girl.

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