Commentary Magazine


Contentions

If Settlements Are Only 1.1 Percent of West Bank, How Are They an Obstacle to Peace?

In an  interview with Charlie Rose this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate unless Israel freezes settlement construction is unjustified, because their claim settlements are stealing the land needed for a Palestinian state is pure “propaganda.” How so? Because “after 44 years, the whole Jewish settlement in the whole West Bank together doesn’t cover even two percent of the area.”

Is this mere propaganda on Barak’s part – a lie meant to downplay the devastating impact of Jewish settlement? Actually, Palestinians put the figure even lower: In an interview with the Arabic radio station As-Shams two weeks ago, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that based on an aerial photograph provided by European sources, the settlements cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank.

So if settlements cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank, why does the entire West deem them the main obstacle to peace? Because admitting that settlements aren’t the main obstacle to peace would force it to confront an unpalatable truth: that the real obstacle to peace is Palestinian unwillingness to accept a Jewish state in any borders.

It’s not that evidence of this has ever been lacking. In July, for instance, a poll found that 66 percent of Palestinians view the two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone to Israel’s eradication. Last month, a whopping 89.8 percent of Palestinian respondents in another poll said they opposed waiving the “right of return” – their demand to eradicate the Jewish state demographically by flooding it with five million descendants of refugees – “even if [that means] no peace deal would be concluded.” Translation: If getting a state of their own means giving up their goal of destroying the Jewish one, they’d rather keep living under “the brutal Israeli occupation.”

But you don’t need to read the polls; Palestinian negotiating tactics also demonstrate their utter disinterest in reaching a deal. In a lecture last month, George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s former envoy to the peace process, described what happened when Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in November 2009:

The Palestinians opposed it on the grounds, in their words, that it was worse than useless. So they refused to enter into the negotiations until nine months of the ten had elapsed. Once they entered, they then said it was indispensable. What had been worse than useless a few months before then became indispensable and they said they would not remain in the talks unless that indispensable element were extended.

In short, the freeze issue was just a giant excuse to avoid actually having to negotiate: It was “useless” while it existed but “indispensable” once it didn’t. Yet the Obama administration never called the Palestinians out on this at the time. Instead, it put intense pressure on Israel to extend the freeze, as did other Western countries – because admitting the Palestinians simply don’t want to negotiate would mean acknowledging that the conflict is currently insoluble.

Granted, that isn’t a very pleasant thing to acknowledge. But isn’t it about time for the West to finally face up to the truth?

 



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.