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Peace talks: The perfect alibi for settlement expansion

Building thousands more settlement units all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in no way comparable or proportionate to the release of Palestinian prisoners. The construction of more settlements is equivalent to the annihilation of a two-state solution and the preemption of any kind of faith-building measures.

Building of the new settlement of Leshim on the lands of the West Bank village of Kafr ad Dik, near Salfit, December 7, 2012. (photo: Activestills)

The announcement Sunday that Israel’s housing minister has approved construction of 1,200 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should be no surprise. It comes just a few days after the Civil Administration announced 878 new housing units in the West Bank. In fact, Israel’s approval of new settlement construction is the one new concrete development on the ground since Kerry announced the resumption of negotiations on July 19.

Something like 2,000 new units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – some in final approval stages before building begins and others at the start of the tender process – have been announced in the last few weeks. The construction published today enumerates 400 new units in Gilo, 210 in Har Homa and 183 Pisgat Ze’ev — all settlements beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem. In the West Bank,it was made up of 117 units in Ariel, 149 in Efrat, 92 in Ma’aleh Adumim and 36 in Beitar Ilit.

While the new units are mostly part of “consensus settlements” – meaning areas that are presumed to remain part of Israel in any two-state solution – it is important to remember that the only reason they have become so is because of U.S. and international complacency in Israeli settlement building over the years. There is no logical or legitimate reason for places like Ariel, deep in the West Bank, and Har Homa, a relatively new but highly controversial settlement that cuts Bethlehem off from Jerusalem, to remain part of Israel in a future agreement.

The tandem news headlines of “peace talks to resume” coupled with “new Israeli settlements announced” are ridiculously insulting. How can anyone take these talks seriously? It is as if Israel was waiting patiently for the U.S. to announce peace talks before it could fling the settlement floodgates wide open; there was actually more restraint in the last year, with a de facto settlement freeze in East Jerusalem.

Despite its formal statements of condemnation, the U.S. clearly has no problem with the new settlement construction, since it is not doing anything to stop it. According to Ma’ariv‘s report Sunday morning, a U.S. official said that Israel notified the administration of this new round of settlement plans, presenting it as a carrot and stick deal in which the carrot is settlement building, and the stick is releasing Palestinian prisoners.

But how can more construction in what is slated to be a future Palestinian state constitute a carrot? Building thousands more settlement units all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in no way comparable or proportionate to the release of Palestinian prisoners. Approving more settlements is equivalent to the annihilation of a two-state solution and the obliteration of any kind of faith-building measures. And releasing Palestinian prisoners is primarily symbolic – considering that Israel remains the controlling power, choosing who and when it releases and re-arresting as it pleases, whenever it pleases.

The disingenuous nature of Israeli actions and the nerve of U.S. passivity is at times hard to comprehend. How can anyone take any of it seriously? Instead of building settlements, as the occupier, Israel should be building trust. If Israel wanted to show a modicum of genuine interest in moving towards a solution with the Palestinians — or if the United States was serious about compelling it to do so — the first thing it should carry out one single act to relieve the basic human rights violations in the occupied West Bank. At this point, even a really really small act could make a big difference.

Like, how about the Civil Administration refrain from destroying water cisterns in the Palestinian village of Susya and allow residents to access their water? Is that too much to ask? Would that undermine the “peace process?” Or how about opening Shuhada Street in Hebron to Palestinians? How about ceasing to conduct night raids in the homes of Palestinians who are non-violently protesting occupation. Or how about this crazy thought? Instead of releasing some prisoners, how about ending the military system under which Palestinians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial for years on end?

That would be too much. In the theatrical charade that is the 2013 “peace talks,” Israel has found the perfect equation: continue exactly as before, but this time, settlements aren’t even considered a hindrance, they are rather, the carrot.

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    1. Kolumn9

      The reason why people should take the peace talks seriously is because this construction is exclusively in large Israeli settlement blocks that Israel is going to maintain in any agreement. In other words, Israel hasn’t in this announcement approved a single home in any settlement that is going to be evacuated (this is different from what it usually does, so yes, it is a good-will gesture towards an agreement with the Palestinians). Yes, yes, I know that there are some people that think that Ariel or Efrat will one day be removed. This just isn’t going to happen. This is the Israeli position. It is explicit and it is consistent. There is nothing disingenuous about it unless you can point me to somewhere where the Israeli government ever suggested it is entering talks on the basis of 1967 lines or a commitment to remove the settlement blocs. You know it has never done so.

      A perfectly viable Palestinian state can arise without these settlement blocs and this is what the Palestinians are going to have to accept. And don’t start giving me nonsense about contiguity. That argument is retarded for two reasons. The first is that Gaza, which I am assuming people expect to be part of Palestine, can only be connected by a narrow land corridor passing through Israel. The second is that there is plenty of contiguous land the Palestinians have to build roads to bypass Ariel and Maale Adumim. The entire argument that Ariel or Maale Adumim jeopardize the contiguity of a Palestinian state is absurd and is meant to fool only the most naive geography-challenged dolts who are incapable of looking at a map.

      There is no logical or legitimate reason why a Palestinian state can not arise without the land on which Ariel and Maale Adumim sit. If the Palestinians and their supporters had a different idea about a starting point for negotiations this should be a wake up call. They are free to get up and walk out if they think that they can get a better deal. The simple truth is that they can’t and the Palestinian leadership knows this despite occasional self-righteous pretenses to the contrary.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        The whole point of “negotiations” is supposed to be to determine which settlements will remain and which will not. It’s not for Israel to unilaterally claim territory.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          The whole point of negotiations is indeed to determine where the border will lie and which villages and cities the Palestinians get to have under their own sovereignty. By that standard then the Palestinians should really stop all of their own settlement construction until peace talks are done otherwise they are making gross assumptions about what they will get and what they lose.

          Reply to Comment
      • Johnboy

        “because this construction is exclusively in large Israeli settlement blocks that Israel is going to maintain in any agreement”

        No, that’s untrue.

        Just to take one example: Israel assumes as a self-evident truth that it will keep Ariel “in any agreement”.

        The Palestinians, by way of marked contrast, insist that Ariel is a non-starter; they have not agreed that Ariel will be annexed to Israel, and they will not agree to that.

        So there you have it: according to your own “logic” that dispute should rule out Ariel as a recipient of new housing contracts.

        Yet there it is: “117 units in Ariel”.

        Honestly, your arrogance is just breathtaking.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      It is unlikely that Ariel or Maale Adumin will remain in a consented agreement.

      It is stretching to authorize there, or anywhere.

      The headline is again ridiculous though, back on the theme of the peace talks as smokescreen, rather than serious effort to be encouraged.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        I disagree. Israel is likely to keep those two settlement blocks permanently in any outcome – consented or not.

        In any case, that is the position of the Israeli government and has been in every set of negotiations. As such, to argue that Israel is disingenuous in continuing construction there is silly. If anything it would have been disingenuous to not construct there while claiming that Israel will not abandon these settlements.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Wtty

          “consented or not”, is not peace agreement.

          Not concluding a peace agreement leaves Israel as occupier, and in the case of Maale Adumin and Ariel in an unnecessarily burdensome maze to defend.

          There is a legal case for the establishment of Gush Etzion and acouple smaller purchased lands, prior to 1948.

          But there is no perfected title of residents of Maale Adumin or Ariel, and they are such an intrusion to Palestinian sovereignty, that nothing is accomplished.

          At the end of this, if nothing changes for Palestinians, Israel will become isolated. If isolated from Europe, that is a big deal.

          All, when very different is possible.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Not concluding a peace agreement leaves Israel in control of the Palestinians only as long as it wants to be in control of the Palestinians. See Gaza. Different kinds of different are indeed possible.

            There is no intrusion into Palestinian sovereignty because no such sovereignty exists. The whole point of the talks is to determine where the line will lie between Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty. Maale Adumim and Ariel do little to prevent said sovereignty from being exercised in a viable and contiguous state of Palestine. If that is the goal of the Palestinians then they can accomplish it regardless of who rules the area that Maale Adumim and Ariel sit on. If their intentions in the matter are otherwise and less then pure then no peace is possible or advisable anyway. In any case if the Palestinians insist on pretty much impossible positions for an Israeli government to accept as a condition for making peace that isn’t a very good starting point for future relations between the two countries. In other words, if the Palestinians are interested in living in peace they shouldn’t particularly care whether Maale Adumim stays or goes. If they are interested in creating a state that is achieved via acrimony and that will be hostile to Israel then no peace treaty is worth the paper it is written on since it will be ripped up at the Palestinians’ earliest convenience.

            And the ‘legal’ distinction you make between Gush Etzion and Ariel is basically meaningless to everyone else. Both are legal because both are based on the legal right of Jews to settle anywhere in the land of Israel. One was settled before 1948, the other after, but nothing happened in 1948 or 1967 that would create a distinction between them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            The key distinction is not what already exists versus what doesn’t exist.

            This is a different process than that. This is a design process.

            The questions are what conditions add to a viable outcome?

            The validity of Gush Etzion, actually not a sovereignty arguement but a title argument, is based on the fact that the land was purchased in a consented exchange, conforming to all reasonable law, including Sharia and Torah.

            Maale Adumin and Ariel were not purchased, but annexed through a sequence of establishment of military outpost, then supporting civilian private enterprise serving the military, then permanance of the private enterprise, then permanent annexation of the military zones as civilian.

            It is a 40 year sequence of incremental extra-legal taking, so that each (most anyway) individual in the sequence did not do anything illegal in their own right, but that the intentionally designed system of expropriation proceeded nevertheless.

            Peace will only endure if it results in a relationship of a viable Palestine next to a viable Israel with sufficient interchange to allow trade and access to ports so that Palestine is viable.

            Maale Adumin and Ariel are not incidentally intrusive in Palestinian sovereign jurisdiction, they are materially, close to prohibitively.

            It makes much more sense to facilitate the conditions that the two settlements be within Palestinian jurisdiction than Israeli, and the settlers permitted to remain in no long segregated communities.

            They then have the choice of if they wish to live in integrated Jerusalem, or in integrated Ariel.

            Reluctance once a goal and parameters are defined, is not a path to success at it.

            You really do have to overtly decide whether you are an advocate of peace (and all that that requires, considering both communities’ needs) or an advocate of greater Israel, with all the isolation and internal struggle (one-person, one-vote) that that will likely entail.

            I think peace is feasible, if reason is applied.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The primary element that will determine whether Palestine is economically viable or not is whether it has friendly commercial relations with Israel. The borders of Palestine are a remote second. If the Palestinian state that arises will be hostile to Israel it makes no difference what its borders will be because it is a failed state and a threat to Israel. If the Palestinian state that arises is friendly to Israel then it makes little difference what its borders will be because it will be an economically viable state in which Palestinians can exercise their sovereignty and independence. As such, the border issue (of which Ariel and Maale Adumim is part) is of very little practical matter here and is only used by the supporters of Palestinians (and the Palestinians themselves) to avoid accepting a Palestinian state living in peace and security next to the state of Israel.

            Again you have made an argument which has absolutely zero logic behind it. How can Maale Adumim be “materially” intrusive on Palestinian sovereignty when no such sovereignty exists? How can it be “materially” intrusive in the future were a Palestinian state to arise given that I have already pointed out that a brief look at a map demonstrates that their presence does nothing to the capacity of the Palestinians to have contiguity and a contiguous transportation network?

            The distinction you again try to make between Ariel and Gush Etzion is once again meaningless for everyone except for you. I believe they are all legitimate. Most Palestinians and their supporters believe they are all illegitimate. In any case, it makes zero sense to try to integrate Ariel and Maale Adumim into a Palestinian state. It is a recipe for continuous confrontation between the Palestinians and the Jews in which Israel will surely intervene. It would be the worst possible ‘solution’ since it ensures more conflict in the future.

            I am an advocate of a secure Israel, with peace or without, and frankly couldn’t care less about what the Palestinians want. If they want peace it will have to be one in which Israel is secure.

            Reply to Comment
          • richard witty

            “I couldn’t care less” while you demand that Palestinians care, is a path to theft and war, the least secure of any setting.

            Its a great tragedy that you have “matured” to the point that you are unwilling to construct peace, even as a risk-mediation strategy.

            Verify. But do what is necessary that needs verification, not nothing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            I don’t demand that the Palestinians ‘care’. Whether they ‘care’ or not is entirely irrelevant to me. If they are interested in having a state in peace with Israel that can be accommodated. If they are interested in maximizing gains in this round so as to build a Palestinian state hostile to Israel that can continue the war against the Jews then I see no particularly reason that Israel should consent to such an outcome regardless of what the Palestinians ‘want’, ‘need’, or ‘care’ about.

            The path to war is creating a strategic situation where the Palestinians are in a position to continue the conflict because given the history between us they are more likely to do so than not. You might think that ‘constructing peace’ requires Israel to make massive strategic concessions as a ‘risk-mediation strategy’ and pray for the best. To me that seems like a sure path to continued conflict. When the Palestinians are ready to end the conflict once and for all this conflict will end. In the meantime their government and people still cling on to the narrative that whether through suicide bombings or peace talks they are trying to weaken the Zionist entity and that is their definition of success rather than achieving a state and living in peace next to a secure state of Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            The factors that construct viability and relationships are what constructs peace.

            So, for borders that means a functionally contiguous West Bank, for law and title that means color-blind assessment of title (including revoking the 1949-51 knesset prohibitions against Palestinian title claims), for economy it means funding enterprise, for polity it means close peer-oriented cooperation (as far as status, if not militarily).

            To get there requires making paths for peaceful interaction, a means to test.

            Right now you have only negative speculation. You have no tests, and no review of the criteria that you yourself use to evaluate.

            As much as radical activism ends up as self-talk, your current map of what you state you are willing and care about is also self-talk, not tested, not opened to disagreeing views that you bother to consider seriously.

            “I don’t care”, hopefully changing to “I care”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The factor that constructs peace is first and foremost a desire to end a conflict. What makes peace sustainable is the absence of desire or capacity to return to conflict. Given that on the Palestinian side there are many that do not accept the legitimacy of an end to this conflict (even among those that support the creation of a Palestinian state) the only way to sustain this peace is to remove the capacity from the Palestinians to return to conflict. This is done by ensuring that in any agreement Israel is secure within her borders and the Palestinians have no international legitimacy to restart the conflict for any reason whatsoever.

            Having said that, none of this, and certainly not Ariel or Maale Adumim prevent a ‘functionally contiguous West Bank’, whatever that means in the same vein that having to go around the West Bank to get from Jerusalem to Beit Shean does not prevent a ‘functionally contiguous Israel’. So, for borders that means that a Palestinian State can arise with ‘functional contiguity’ while Israel gets to keep the settlement blocks and all this with minimal if any impact on its viability. The economy of said state in the case of peace will be initially dependent on economic integration with Israel. That is the most direct and certain way of increasing the standard of living among the Palestinians. Israel has the infrastructure to potentially absorb much of the labor and to transport goods and people (tourists) to and from the Palestinian state. There is pretty much no other realistic alternative economic plan to jumpstart the economy of the Palestinian state as relying on the external funding of Palestinian development is not realistic given how unreliable such promises of aid have been in the past (see Egypt/Tunisia/or the PA itself) and how corrupt the PA is in itself. As such, the primary indicator of the future vitality of a Palestinian State is whether it will have good relations with Israel.

            To get there requires making paths for peaceful interaction on the basis of a goal of having two states at peace rather than as a stepping stone to future conflict which appears to be the current narrative for the Palestinian state among the Palestinian elites. There has been ample room for testing these intentions and they are hardly hidden among the Palestinian public or in the narratives promoted by the Palestinian leadership.

            My criteria are simple. When the Palestinians are ready for peace their leadership will embrace a Palestinian state as their ultimate goal, accept that Israel is a Jewish state, and will abandon the narrative of ‘return’ with the latter two both being components of a desire to reverse the existence of the State of israel. Absent such a shift, an agreement with Israel fits into the existing Palestinian narrative only as a means of continued conflict towards the ‘liberation’ of the ‘rest of Palestine’. When I see any movement or leader among the Palestinians who approaches the resolution of the conflict on these terms I will know that they are ready for peace.

            I don’t plan to dive too deeply into the psychobabble that I assume constitutes your last paragraph.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            The 67 border are more secure than the maze around the remote settlements.


            The only borders that would be more secure than the 67, would be from river to sea, but that would construct a single state with a currently 42+% non-Jewish minority, citizens.

            Only non-zionist parties would be able to form a coalition, even if the % remained at that level.

            If Israel annexes but does not afford civil rights including voting, then it will be boycotted in earnest.

            The Mediterranean and European markets will be gone.

            Israeli inflation will return to the 30%/year norm of the 60’s and 70’s.

            The only way to avoid things falling apart is to make peace, when there is a chance.

            Right now, the leaders are dancing around, posturing, not yet talking with an open mind and good intentions.

            Kerry is smart and effective. He orchestrated the Arab League reiterating its offer. He orchestrated resumption of diplomatic relations with Turkey. He orchestrated Egypt relative to Israel (even under Morsi) as mediator rather than partisan. He convinced the PA to delay improvements in its UN status.

            Don’t get too complacent. Think ahead.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Giora Me'ir

      As I’ve said the piece talks, where Israel takes the future Palestine piece by piece while talking, are a waste of time.

      The mystery is why the Palestinians continue to partake in this charade.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Because they have no choice and the alternative to a negotiated settlement is indeed the future Palestine getting smaller and smaller with time.

        The Palestinians can partake in that other charade of unilateral action at the UN but then they risk going bankrupt and seeing all their organizing capacity crumble to dust.

        Reply to Comment
        • Giora Me'ir

          To use your wonderful choice of words, that’s retarded. Israel has a lot to lose if the Palestinians go to the UN and other international fora.
          That’s why they’ve
          been so desperate to prevent them from doing just that.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The Americans are the ones that believe they have something to lose if the Palestinians go to the UN. It is the Americans, not the Israelis that are willing to invest the resources to avoid it. As far as I am concerned I don’t believe that there will be significant consequences to Israel of the Palestinians pursuing their agenda at the UN. Of course, in response Israel will likely start shutting down the capacity of the Palestinian National Movement to pursue independent action. As it stands the only reason the Palestinians have the diplomatic capacity to pursue a unilateral diplomatic policy is because they are using funds they receive as the Palestinian Authority in order to wage diplomatic warfare against Israel. This is a very ironic situation that can certainly be relatively easily curtailed and the Palestinian National Movement has no replacement for funding or organization. This will have the impact of removing the likelihood of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the short-term but by removing the other party it also removes the pressure on Israel to negotiate or make concessions because there really will be no one to negotiate with or to make concessions to.

            Reply to Comment
          • Giora Me'ir

            Diplomatic warfare?

            Yeah, fortunate the ANC in South Africa got all that money to wage diplomatic wafare. Without it, there would still be apatheid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Hahaha. You don’t know then that the ANC was financially sponsored by the Soviet Union which also spearheaded the diplomatic fight against apartheid-era South Africa? When the Soviet Union started breaking down Mandela abandoned the communist approach to the conflict with the whites (revolution, appropriation, etc..) and adopted a conciliatory tone which allowed the whites to maintain their positions of economic affluence. That was enough for De Klerk to enter negotiations.

            Interestingly, until Oslo the financial and diplomatic support for the PLO also came from the Soviet Union and its proxies. This is also the reason why Abu Mazen’s PhD is from Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow and why many of the veteran Fatah leaders were trained and armed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Romania, etc.

            When the Soviet Union became less hostile to Israel and then eventually broke down and the PLO took the wrong side in the first Gulf War the PLO was left adrift and Arafat was forced into negotiations with Israel. Since then the PA/PLO diplomatic machine has been sponsored by money mostly arriving from the US, Western Europe, Japan and the transfers of customs duties from Israel intended to create a friendly entity that would end the conflict with Israel. Were the PA to prove incapable of doing so and were it to switch its strategy to one which makes peace talks impossible its money will dry up and so will its diplomatic muscle.

            Reply to Comment
          • Giora Me'ir

            The ANC never reached statehood, or near statehood status, the way the Palestinians have. That alone will assure that their international efforts will continue. And that Israel will face expanded BDS in the years to come as long as it continues its present course.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            It is funny to me that you think that the Palestinians have ‘achieved’ statehood or near statehood as if this is something that makes their movement more powerful than the ANC was. The ANC didn’t need to achieve statehood. They wanted the whole country and managed to get it. The Palestinians are on a path to having to settle for statehood with their effective sovereignty limited to the territory they control. In the South Africa scenario it would be the equivalent of the ANC settling for setting up an internationally recognized state in Transkei.

            In any case, you might not know this, but achieving ‘statehood’ or recognition does not actually provide a country with any material resources. Nor does it provide a country with a significant boost in diplomatic power. Being a state has not helped Azerbaijan retrieve territory from Armenia and hasn’t helped Cyprus retrieve territory from Turkey. The Palestinians spend millions upon millions maintaining their embassies and consulates around the world and all these ‘international efforts’ are actually very expensive and require significant organizing capacity (read: money and bases of operation). The Palestinians have no alternative sources of funding to support such operations were the PA to stop receiving the financial aid it is currently receiving.

            As for BDS. The most acceptable argument for BDS internationally is that as a tactic it might force Israel to negotiate. If there is no one to negotiate with BDS is simply an anti-Israel movement (which it is anyway). If Hamas were to take over the Palestinian National Movement not only does that justification drop away but those supporting BDS end up lined up with Islamic terrorists. A similar scenario plays out if there is no recognized Palestinian national organization with different countries supporting different players (like the Syrian opposition). Without the credible potential for a negotiated solution with a credible, representative body (Fatah/PLO in this case) BDS would be about as powerful as the movement to free Tibet from China.

            This is why Abbas negotiates. Negotiations and eventually an agreement with Israel are really his only viable strategy. He understands that the options that are commonly proposed as alternatives do not exist and only lead to an even weaker Palestinian National Movement which can aspire to even less than that what they might get at the negotiating table.

            Reply to Comment
        • Duglarri

          Israel has a lot to lose as well. Current trends show that the ROTW (Rest Of The World) holds the borders of Israel to be the legal border: the 1967 borders. If Israel continues to unilaterally occupy, including these settlements you state are non-negotiable, there will not be an agreement. And we the 7 billion people of the world outside Israel and the US will turn their backs on this little experiment in European colonization, and Israel will be over. Which will be too bad.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Vadim

      Palestinians demand Israel release dozens of murderers, the worst scum of the earth to have negotiations. People here find it a legitimate act of a party that wishes peace.

      Israel plans to build more homes in regions which will most probably remain under Israeli sovereignty. People here find this a despicable act that will destroy any chance of peace.

      Impeccable logic.

      Note 1 – I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be on the side whose “extremists” are pacified by building homes, not on the side of those who are pacified by glorifying acts of murder.

      Note 2 – what two states solution? Have you forgotten about Gaza? How about Jordan? It’s already a 4 state solution…

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        “worst scum of the earth”
        is a state occupying foreign land and opressing the people who lived their in first place for about nearly 50 years.

        And dare to tell me your bible “why this land is your land” bs. Grow up.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Yes, worst scum of the earth. Murderers. People who murdered others with their own hands simply because they were Jews.

          JG – If you are unwilling to call them that – you have something very wrong with your moral compass. You may think what you wish about Israel, that doesn’t cancel the fact that the world would have been a better place without those people. I know some people can’t hear a bad thing about Arabs without balancing it with Israel’s evil, but a murderer is a murderer.

          And why do you assume I would mention the bible? What does that have to do with anything?

          Now, I urge you to recall how things were here in the late 80s and 90s. No roadblocks, Arabs worked freely in all of Israel, Israelis went freely to Arab cities to shop. Compare it to what’s going on now. Those people, and those who brainwashed them, and those who sent then and those who will now honor and glorify them – they are responsible for the change.

          Aristeides – if you think the IDF goes about and intentionally kills people then you are either delusional or stupid. If you’ll look at Syria you’ll get a chance to see how many people get killed when an army truly wants them dead. Seeing anything similar here?

          Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        The Israelis put their scum in IDF uniform and make sure they never see a day in prison no matter how much blood on their hands.

        Reply to Comment
    5. rsgengland

      The quicker the Palestinians negotiate in good faith, the quicker there will be some sort of Palestinian state on the on parts of land west of the Jordan river, in what has come to be known as the ‘West Bank’.
      If Arafat had had the guts and the strength to sign an agreement with Barack in 2000 this whole conversation would have been unnecessary.
      Abbas has no power to sign any agreements.
      His electoral mandate expired 4 years ago, thus making his administration illegal.
      Hamas has a functioning administration in Gaza, although it too has lost its electoral legitimacy, by overstaying its mandate.
      I cannot see Hamas agreeing to any deal brokered by the Palestinian Administration under Abbas.
      So, unless we are back in the time of miracles, the situation will just remain in stalemate, as it has since 2000, despite the second intafada.

      Reply to Comment
    6. I’m looking forward to Palestinian sovereignty–with Israeli toll booths.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Engelbert Luitsz

      Netanyahu is desparate to see some real Palestinian violence, so the most moral army in the world can show it’s strength again and maybe deliver the coup de grace to the rightful owners of the land.
      It’s arrogance and harassment. Israel is behaving like a spoiled brat, an accident waiting to happen.

      Reply to Comment
      • Shmuel

        ” … to the rightful owners of the land.”

        Yeah, the rightful owners of the land are the Jewish people. The Arab people have the rest of the Middle East and all of North Africa. You don’t think so much land is enough for them? That is just plain greed by you on their behalf.

        Reply to Comment
        • Engelbert Luitsz

          The whites have plenty of land too, you know.

          Reply to Comment
          • Shmuel

            And the Jews have only Israel.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Richard Witty

      A shift in position.

      What would be the effect if the PA publicly stated:

      “Thank you Israeli government for giving us additional housing and other buildings in what will be sovereign Palestine.

      It is extremely generous of you to contribute to our development efforts.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        A lot of laughter.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Weinstein Henry

      There is no new land grab, so there is no Peace talks as “perfect alibi, it’s internal Israeli politics.
      This is the Peace talks’ Price tag probably, no more no less dumb.
      Seems that the ‘Price tag’ policy used by radical settlers against Israeli officials is now used by them inside the Israeli cabinet to ‘balance’ the prisoner release & negociations with Palestinian authority.
      It’s more symbolic than “perfect alibi” actually.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Having trapped Abbas in a position where his only raison dêtre is to ‘negotiate’, it’s only logical for Israel to take advantage of his tactical paralysis in every way it can. Not only that, but as I noted on Dahlia’s recent thread about the so-called ‘peace negotiations’, the US (inspired by ‘the leaders of the US Jewish community’), is getting Kerry to twist Abbas’ arm into not making any ‘unhelpful statements’ at the UN General Assembly next month. Instead, they want him to say nice things, such as that he recognises Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ (so much for Israeli Arabs, then).

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        “(so much for Israeli Arabs, then).”

        Yea and so much for the Jews who used to live in Arab lands too. I don’t suppose what happened to them is worth lamenting according to the likes of you?

        Reply to Comment
        • Either that’s another example of the ubiquitous tu quoque (you too) argument, or it’s an expression of a desire for revenge. In either case, it’s irrelevant to the question of how Israeli Arabs are going to cope with their not-so-gradual deligitimation. But Abbas will not say this. He will content himself (and ‘the leaders of the US Jewish community’) by refraining from demanding the recognition of full statehood for the useless, tokenistic little Bantustan he intends to preside over.

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          • Tzutzik

            Neither. It is an expression for the desire for Jews to have the same rights in the eyes of folk like you who constantly whine ONLY about Arab rights.

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    11. Kerry has just unilaterally changed the US policy:
      “The US of A regards all of the settlements as illegitimate.”
      Video here, a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82Y9_1-681A”>here, and doubtless many more places in the very near future. I love it when they do this.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        ” I love it when they do this.”

        Have you heard the saying “He who laughs last, laughs best”?

        Stew on that, “my friend”!

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    12. You sound like the villain from a nineteenth-century melodrama, Tzutzik, or possibly Captain Haddock in the Tintin comics, who is given to remarks like “What about that, my fine feathered friend?” But this is very remarkable, whether it is Kerry’s innate tendency to blunder (his forebrain having been removed during his Skull & Bones initiation at Yale), or whether it is a calculated move (in which case no-one bothered to inform Ms Thing at the State Dept, who spent about 20 minutes during the daily presser dancing around the weasel formula that has been the preferred diction for almost 30 years, namely “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement,” the word “continued” having the implication that all settlement up to the moment when the statement is made is not at issue. It will be entertaining to watch Kerry walking his statement back to there, which I dare say he will be forced to do, after irate phone calls from Netanyahu, etc.

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    13. Tzutzik

      Ask yourself what is “a settlement”?

      Is the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem “a settlement”? Jews lived in there continuously for thousands of years. So how could it be a settlement? How could it be verboten for Jews to live there? Yet that’s exactly what your Arab friends and assorted “progressives” want.

      You might also ask yourself, is Gush Etzion a settlement? If you say, yes then you might want to justify why. How come a place in which Jews lived before 1948 and from which they were ethnically cleansed by your Arab friends in 1948 be a settlement?

      But then again you probably don’t even know about this bit of history. Or more likely, you don’t want to know about it.

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      • Nu, I know about it. But the word settlement (nahal) has no particular resonance any more. It’s just media shorthand for everything beyond the Green Line.

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        • Tzutzik

          “It’s just media shorthand for everything beyond the Green Line.”

          And the media knows it all right?

          But media smedia, who cares? I asked YOU a question. Are you man enough to answer it or not? Are you man enough to give me YOUR own opinion or not?

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          • It’s a non-question. Do I consider x y or z to be a “settlement”? It’s meaningless. Kerry may very well come back & say: “When I said the US of A considers all the settlements illegitimate, I meant p, q or r.” The default meaning of the word is “everything beyond the Green Line”, and Kerry can engage in hair-splitting if he wants, but I’m not going to engage in it just because you ask me to.

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          • Tzutzik

            Whatever Rowan …

            But if you think that Israel will ever agree to withdraw to the 1967 boundaries which were nothing but the 1949 armistice lines, which even that arch dove, Aba Evan, called Aushwitz borders, then you are out of your cotton pickin’ mind.

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          • If anybody’s interested, I’ve extracted the section from the Aug 14 State Dept press briefing where the luckless Ms Thing tries to finesse what Jackass Kerry said in Bogota about the US of A regarding all the settlements as illegitimate: link.

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          • Tzutzik

            What a stupid interview. The interviewer never stops pressing his own bias and the interviewee is busy avoiding the questions.

            It is worth noting that right after the 1967 war, the UN security council passed resolution 242 which talked about negotiating secure and recognised borders. The operative word was NEGOTIATING. But for quite a few years afterwards the Arabs refused to negotiate. So what was Israel to do? Act as if they were contesting a cricket match? There was terrorism going on against Israel. So Israel had to respond in it’s own way. With facts on the ground. It had to respond to the Arab version of facts on the ground which was TERRORISM instead of negotiations.

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          • The State Dept daily presser is always like that. Although I refer to all the various interchangeable spokeswomen as ‘Ms Thing’, I actually quite admire them. They have aplomb. Last week Jen Psaki told the same questioner (Matthew Lee of AP): “I’m not going to parse it for you.” And that is almost exactly what I said to you the other day, Tzutzik, when you wanted me to define “settlement”. Thanks to Ms Thing, I realised that I do not have to do other people’s semantic work for them. Let them define it.


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          • Tzutzik

            “Thanks to Ms Thing, I realised that I do not have to do other people’s semantic work for them. Let them define it.”

            No problems Rowan. So you come here and sound off against Israel but the moment someone with a bit of knowledge of history calls you on it, you go into avoidance mode like your “Ms Thing”.

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          • Tzutzik, you don’t know me at all. I’m not anti-Israel, I’m anti-imperialist. I have a completely different vision of what Israel could & should have been.

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          • Tzutzik

            You are right Rowan, I don’t know you. So if you have a grand vision about what Israel “could have been”, let’s hear it so I CAN know you.

            Reply to Comment
          • There’s a major aspect of pre-State vs post-State history which has been practically erased from the history books. I think you’ll find this is true even of the hebrew-language history books. I have had to do quite a lot of research and getting hold of old out-of-print books to find out anything about it. Basically, it seems to me that until ’48, Jewish Palestine was perceived, and perceived itself, as an anti-imperialist entity. If you read about the real history of the Palmach (not the official hagiographies), it becomes clear that it was a very pro-Soviet, and Soviet-styled, organisation. I read somewhere that it even had ‘politruks’ (ideological officers, like the Red Army, and politruk is the Soviet term for them). MAPAM was pro-Soviet, and it dominated the Kibbutz movement. That is how they got all the arms from Stalin: they persuaded him that when Israel gained independence, it would be an anti-imperialist force in the region. After all, it was fighting a war of independence against Britain, and all the surrounding Arab states were colonial properties of the British. But when BG declared independence, practically the first thing he did was dissolve the Palmach into the new, ‘apolitical’ Tzahal, and get rid of the more extreme left-wing officers and commanders. Then he aligned Israel with the US. But I don’t think people realise all this. It’s been suppressed, in fact. I wrote a lengthy and bitter blog post about it, called “The Old Jewish Leftist Con”, which might sound like an anti-Semitic title. But I have collected many examples of the way the Old Jewish Leftist stereotype actually helped protect Israel in the minds of US leftists until probably the October 173 war, which triggered the transformation of Israel, and Zionism, and US support both Jewish & non-Jewish, from a more or less ‘Left’ issue into a ‘Right’ (ie conventional US imperialist) one.

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          • Tzutzik

            Do I understand you correctly? Your problem with Israel is that it did not become a Soviet style “utopia”? You don’t think the Soviets were imperialists?

            By the way, you are wrong in your claim that Israel aligned itself with America after 1948. Oh, sure, it would have liked to but America did not want a bar of it. IT was too busy trying to woo the Arabs and their oil so being aligned with Israel would not have helped them in that endeavour. In fact, America slapped on an arms embargo on Israel in 1948. Instead, till 1967, Israel had to buy arms from France.

            If you don’t believe me then read up on what happened in 1956 and How Eisenhower twisted Israel’s arms to withdraw from Sinai unconditionally after the 1956 war with Nasser’s army.

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          • I never said the USSR and its satellites were utopias. In a sense I would agree that the USSR was colonialist in its approach to its near abroad (Central Asia). Pre Revolutionary Russia had a long history of colonialism in Central Asia, having itself been a colony of the Kievian empire before it become the regional hegemon. Relations within a vast landmass are quite different from those in an isolated oceanic power, like Britain or the USA. In fact, I think it’s impossible to describe the difference, though some Russian theoreticians have tried. It is an important question whether the USSR managed to reconceptualise its ‘colonialism’ vis-a-vis its near abroad, before it was destroyed by US intervention in Afghanistan.

            In relation its more remote satellites, the USSR acted in some ways like an imperial hegemon, but again, it lost these due to US agitation in Poland, which led to the splintering of the whole bloc. So we can’t really examine Soviet foreign policy in a neutral condition; it was always under extreme stress due to western pressure (not least, economic).

            But setting all that aside, just pragmatically, yes, I think Israel would have been a much more interesting and worthwhile entity if it had entered the Soviet orbit instead of the US one.

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          • Tzutzik

            “But setting all that aside, just pragmatically, yes, I think Israel would have been a much more interesting and worthwhile entity if it had entered the Soviet orbit instead of the US one.”

            And that in a nutshell, the fact that Israel did not wind up in the Soviet bloc, sums up why you and people like you count yourselves as Israel as Israel’s harshest critics at every turn?

            Funny, I always suspected that. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

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          • I can’t speak for the “people like me,” whoever they are, but personally I don’t “count myself as Israel’s harshest critic at every turn.” There are aspects of Israeli-Jewish culture I’m very attached to. I have an enormous collection of Israeli rock music (in MP3 form). My tastes are similar to many aging Israeli-Jewish rockers. I like Berry Sakharof and Rami Fortis. I like Pollyanna Frank. I liked Inbal Perlmutter (ha-Mekhashefot). Etc etc.

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    14. Marwan Barghouti to be released?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Haaretz reporting: http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-1.541149?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.216%2C2.217%2C

      ‘The same official said the final decision will be influenced by what happens on Tuesday with respect to Israel’s planned release of Palestinian prisoners.

      “Abbas sent messages on Monday, reassuring the families of prisoners whose names did not appear on the list of 26 to be released on Tuesday, saying he is certain all 104 of the veteran prisoners – those who have been in jail since before the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993 – will eventually be released. Their release does not depend solely on progress in the talks, he explained, since in exchange for their freedom, the PA has agreed to freeze all plans to seek action against Israel through UN institutions.

      If Wednesday’s talks go forward as planned, Haaretz has learned that the Palestinians plan to demand the release of additional prisoners on top of the 104 to which Israel has already agreed. These additional prisoners will include senior Fatah official MARWAN BARGHOUTI and Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”

      The release of MARWAN BARGHOUTI is the only prisoner release which is important STRATEGICALLY important for Palestine.

      How much longer can the Vichy-Palestine government of Abbas last with Barghouti on the loose?

      Time for Palestinian elections and have Marwan Barghouti on the ‘negotiating team’ up against Indyk and the rest of the Israelis

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    15. Shmuel

      If Bibi agrees to release Barghuti, I predict that his government will fall and a more right wing government will replace him.

      Barghuti is a murderer with Israeli civilian blood on his hands. He should NEVER be released!!!! He is lucky he is not DEAD!!!!!

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      • Barghouti will be the first president of the One State so I can see why the Israeli political system would FEAR HIM

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        • Shmuel

          You are entitled to your dreams.

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      • JG

        Barghuti is a man of intellect.
        Should be clear why guys like you and your smallminded settler regime would fear him

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        • Shmuel

          He is also a cold blooded murderer of Israeli civilians. Should be clear why guys like you and your smallminded vindictive Jew haters revere him.

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          • JG

            Why should I hate Jews? I just hate idiots, and their numbers are fairly balanced between every religion….
            So I don’t care which god you worship…

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          • Shmuel

            “Why should I hate Jews?”

            Indeed, why should you? But you seem to. You seem to revere people who murder Jewish Israeli civilians. This barghuti guy specifically.

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    16. Tomer

      The decision to build and develop new housing in Yesha is a good one. In the end, all these mountains will be Israeli. The Arab fertility in these lands is only half that of the Jewish one. Aliyah and Arab emigration will add to these changes in the years ahead.

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    17. gideon gitai

      The BUT of John Kerry

      While in Brazil (which announced that it won’t be buying U.S. fighters, because the NSA spying on it) John Kerry lifted his hand to spell with his fingers the word BUT. If you hadn’t seen it on Tembelvision, here is what the guy said: “The U.S. views ALL Israeli settlements as “illegitimate.””
      Then he stopped, waived his hand to write in thin air the word BUT, and added: “That means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many people make a presumption – obviously not some Palestinians or others – will be part of Israel in the future,” Kerry added. “He has specifically agreed not to disturb what might be the potential for peace going forward.”
      So let me ask some Qs:
      * Is Minister Kerry NAIVE, or Stupid?
      * Does JK truly believe that Netanyahu is right, to support him?
      * Does JK think that the Palestinians can eat any “frog” and say thank you?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Shmuel

      “* Does JK think that the Palestinians can eat any “frog” and say thank you?”

      Sigh …

      Why do some people think that it isn’t ok for Palestinian Arabs to “eat a frog” (compromise) but it IS ok for Israel to “eat a frog”?

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    19. OK, it is clear with the Israelis are up to. But why are the Palestinians going along with this pathetic charade? Has Kerry bribed or bullied Abbas in some way?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ilonj

        Right on Colin, NOT !!!!

        The only party being bullied is Israel. So far, Israel was forced to agree to release 104 Palestinian murderers with Israeli blood on their hands. And for what???? For the privilige of the Palestinians “honoring” the Israelis by willing to speak to them. Some privilige, yea right …

        I wonder what the American people would say if Kery would release prisoners from Gitmo with American blood on their hand in exchange for the “privilige” of America’s enemies “honoring” America by agreeing to speak to America. I tell you what, Colin, there would be a huge outcry in America against Kery. In fact, his head would roll. And rightly so.

        Reply to Comment
        • Johnboy

          The Israeli government first agreed to release all these prisoners as long ago as 1999.

          I’m serious; the Israeli govt signed the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum in 1999, and that stipulated that all these prisoners would be released.

          Ilonj: “And for what????”

          For the privilege of demonstrating to an oh-so-sceptical world that it actually honours its agreements, albeit only after 14 years of prodding and poking.

          Because this is axiomatic: having a track record of not living up to your existing agreements Is Not Exactly A Good Look when you are trying to negotiate a new agreement.

          Onlookers might start to think that you can’t be trusted to keep your word, you see….

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    20. Johnboy

      You have to see these talks for what they are i.e. Kerry understands that the ground is shifting under Israel, whereas Netanyahu is completely oblivious to it.

      So these talks represent One Last Attempt by the USA to assist the Israelis in getting what they want while the USA is still in a position to do so.

      And Netanyahu simply isn’t interested in helping out Kerry because he honestly believes that time is on Israel’s side.

      So Netanyahu is being opportunistic – he’s using the talks as “cover” for more settlement construction – and he doesn’t even have a glimmer that what he is doing is actually hastening the moment when this “settlement enterprise” encounters History in much the way that a blowfly makes a close encounter with a car windscreen.

      And just like a blowfly Netanyahu won’t even see it coming, and the last thing that will go through his mind is…. his arse.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ilonj

        BS John!!!!

        Even if what you say is true about 1999 which I am not sure that it is. Who put pressure on Israel at that time to release those murderers? And why would have Israel agreed to do so in 1999???????

        Now answer my question:

        I wonder what the American people would say if an Aneeican leader would release prisoners from Gitmo with American blood on their hand in exchange for the “privilege” of America’s enemies “honoring” America by agreeing to speak to America. I tell you what, there would be a huge outcry in America against such a leader. In fact, his head would roll. And rightly so.

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    21. Ilonj

      Oh and John, seeing that you are so diligent about keeping track of Israeli committments which it was pressured into, can you please comment on this committment which was also part of the 1999 Sharm El Sheik agreement?

      “The Memorandum provides that accelerated permanent status negotiations will commence not later than September 13, 1999, and that the goal of these negotiations is to reach a framework agreement on permanent status within five months and a comprehensive permanent status agreement within one year.”

      Was that achieved? If not, why not? Let me give you a clue. Because the Palestinians never intended to reach a peace deal. We found that out after Ehud Barak’s two peace offers, the first in 2000 which went way beyond what any previous Israeli leader was willing to offer before. And his second offer in Taba in 2001 was even more far reaching. But by then Arafat was too busy orchestrating the Intifada that he started after Ehud Barak’s first peace offer.

      Now tell me John, was the Intifada too, part of the Sharm and Sheik 1999 memorandum? No? So why don’t I hear you complaining about that broken deal by the Palestinians?

      Reply to Comment
      • Musa

        any fact you point might be true.
        but also the fact that any of the sides do not believe these talks can lead to anyting.
        the ground is shifting below the Israelies, but also below the Palestinians.
        for the Israelies the demographic situations leads to a solutions that they can’t live with it – no solution is good for them.
        for the Palestinian it is the time till the leadership will collapse and take the same part like their brothers – and the people just want to leave in piece (or at least close to it), the same we lived before.

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    22. MUSA

      what I don’t understans is why are the settlements considered such a problem.
      this claim is since Israel has shown that they can evacuate the settlements they have built.
      Sharon, one of the leaders who were in favour of those settlements, was he one to leave them.
      this can be done in the future again.
      my guess is that beside human rights, that are continuosly being desregarded, settlements are the easier target.
      I claim this, since Palestinians can’t really claim anything about human rights. while these are no part in any other Arab country. on the contrary, although Palestinians human rights are so poor, their status is much better than their bloodbrothers in any neoghbor country.
      Israelis on the contrary are doing all efforsts to present themselves as the village idiots.
      can’t they stop building in the settleents? why is it so important to do it right now?
      how can they compare the libaration of murderers to mocking the world? can’t they understand that nothing good will come out of it?

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    23. IlonJ

      You sound like a reasonable person so I will try and explain why people like me think they way we think.

      You ask why can’t Israel evacuate settlements the way they have in the past (even Sharon).

      Firstly, let me ask you a counter question. How did that work out for Israel? Israel evacuated the Gaza settlements and in return it got Hamas elected because most Palestinians perceived the evacuations as a sign of weakness by Israel in the face of Hamas. And that in turn resulted in ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, for years, on to the heads of the civilians of Southern Israel.

      Secondly, Although most Israelis are willing to evacuate some of the smaller remote settlements, most Israelis are not willing, nor do we perceive that Israel would be able to evacuate the larger settlement blocs which are closer to the Green Line. Not willing because most Israelis don’t believe that Israel can afford to have the vulnerable borders of 1967. Also not willing because places like the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem was ALWAYS Jewish (as the name suggests) and it has Jewish holy places which are religiously, emotianally and historically significant to most of the Jewish people, even secular Jews.

      Last but not least, even if Israelis would ignore all of the above, it was one thing to evacuate about 10,000 settlers from Gaza. Even that was hard, but to evacuate up to 300,000 to 400,000 settlers from the areas that you are talking about, would be an impossibility. It would result in major hardships and even civil war. And for what? Would there be peace? No, there would not be peace. Hamas and their ilk would make sure of it. And I am not even sure that the PA would make peace. They seem to be adamant about the right of return. And that does not bode well about their intentions. That is why most sensible Israelis don’t want to take silly risks. Only a small lunatic fringe is advocating such risks. And of course, outsiders who have nothing to lose.

      Shalom, Salam to you, MUSA.

      Reply to Comment
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