Why Can’t Jewish Settlements Remain in a Palestinian State?

Looking Past the Biggest Obstacles to Peace Deal

Future Palestinians: Could Jewish settlers ever accept to live in a Palestinian state?
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Future Palestinians: Could Jewish settlers ever accept to live in a Palestinian state?

By Hillel Halkin

Published February 13, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
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Consider the following:

Even after one subtracts the so-called “settlement blocs” that can presumably be swapped for territory now in Israel (a very big “presumably,” but no matter), close to 100,000 Jewish settlers are now living on land that will be part of any Palestinian state. These are the settlers who will have to be evacuated from their homes if no Jews can live in such a state. They constitute more than ten times the number of the 8,000 settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.

What happened in 2005 and subsequently? Large parts of the Israeli army and police force had to be mobilized for the evacuation. For days, the country sat before its televisions watching Jews dragged from their houses. The experience was traumatic.

Even many Israelis who favored the evacuation swore they could never live through such a thing again. The cost of the operation and of the compensation paid the settlers ran into many billions of dollars. Eight years later, there are evacuees who have still not been successfully relocated.

And Israel is going to do this again with 100,000 settlers in Judea and Samaria — many of them more militant than the settlers in Gaza, all of them living in areas more precious to Jewish historical memory than was Gaza, most far closer to the center of Israel than was Gaza? There isn’t the remotest chance of it happening.

The national will to make it happen isn’t there. In the case of the evacuation from Gaza, predictions of civil war were clearly exaggerated. In the case of an evacuation from Judea and Samaria, nothing would be clear at all. No Israeli government could run the risk.

We need to reframe our syllogism. It now goes: 1) Peace between Israel and the Palestinians depends on the establishment of a Palestinian state. 2) Jewish settlements will continue to exist in such a state. 3) Therefore, the belief that the settlements are an obstacle to peace has become an obstacle to peace itself.

Hillel Halkin is an author and translator who has written widely on Israeli politics and culture and was the Forward’s Israel correspondent from 1993 to 1996.


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