The Settlements – an Opportunity for Peace
March 19th 2010
According to a very common view in European and American Media the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace. For this reason president Obama promised even before he took office to stop all further expansion of the Jewish settlements. Nearly all European governments welcomed this statement.
After it became clear that the Israeli government would not act accordingly the Palestinian leadership threatened to break up all further peace negotiations or even to start a new intifada. Palestinian President Abbas threatened to step down and said he would not be available for another term in office – because if he did not step down, Fatah, the political party of Abbas, would be accused of collaborating with Israel.
Public opinion in the Western hemisphere continued leaning even more towards condemning the Israeli settlements. More and more the media are demanding that Israel, to attain a peace treaty, evacuate the settlements.
The political left of the whole West is united behind this view. They speak of an Apartheid-system, and accuse Israel of trying to shrink Palestine to a few urban centers in order to annex the greater part of the West Bank.
After Obama’s demand to stop all expansion of settlements this view gained considerable influence in the Western media.
After a while though Obama stopped speaking about halting any further expansion of the settlements. Journalists were saying: he capitulated before the Israelis. And for a long time nothing has come from the White House to contradict this interpretation. There was only silence. – And even the latest push of Mitchell and Clinton could change the attitude of the Israeli government.
Unfortunately, not a single one of the Western politicians seems to see the opportunity the settlements are offering – and if any of them could see it, they lack the courage to speak about it.
But in spite of that cluelessness – there never was a greater opportunity to make peace in Palestine, not in spite of, but because of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That opportunity would be lost, if Israel decided to evacuate the settlements, because it is exactly their existence which provides the opportunity. This opportunity has also not been recognized by any of the Israeli politicians - probably because of the Israeli intention behind the settlements.
Israeli politicians may have intended exactly what the European left is insinuating: to erode the West Bank by reducing Palestine to a few conurbations and to annex the rest. Even though that might have been the motive for building the settlements in the first place, now, since they exist, the settlements offer a real, if unintended, opportunity to make peace – and it would be wise if Israeli politicians, Western politicians, and leftist ideologists forgot about the motives of yesterday; it would be wise to recognize the chance and then grasp it.
The opportunity comes from not evacuating the settlements and it comes from not integrating them into Israel proper, rather the opposite. The opportunity arises from the presence of a Jewish minority on the West Bank.
Just turn all of the West Bank and Gaza, including the Jewish settlements into the new state of Palestine.
Then we get a Palestinian state with a strong Jewish minority and a Jewish state with a Palestinian minority.
The Jewish minority in the new state of Palestine will insist, under all circumstances, that their minority rights must be protected by international treaties. The international community will see to it that these rights are in fact be protected, if necessary by stationing an international strike force in the new state of Palestine.
This will have consequences for the Arab minority in Israel. Their territory will thus not be swapped for the territory of the settlements, as has been suggested, quite the opposite, their rights will now be guaranteed internationally, in parallel to the rights of the Jews in the West Bank. In Israel proper troops will hardly be necessary, but clear and internationally enforceable rules will.
Grabbing this opportunity will create at long last two states with a minority in both of them which will have to be protected by the international community – at least until life there has normalized.
Such a peace would create equal conditions in each of the two states. Israelis and Palestinians could meet at eye level. And that way any grievance could dissolve.
As a consequence the economy in the new state of Palestine will start booming. International investors will come and put their money to work, because now it will be safe to invest. And the Palestinians will rebuild their country in no time. The world will see another economic miracle.
A new economic community will come into existence with Jordan, Egypt and Turkey as additional partners. Iraq will join and it won’t be long before Syria shows its wish to take part in it.
Through that neighborly example Lebanon will find a way to deal with its inner conflicts and join the union. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will follow suit. And finally even Iran will put aside its separatist attitude and ask to become a member.
But all that has one decisive prerequisite. The most important source of the sense of identity needs to be party to this: religion. Simultaneously – or even prior to a political solution it must be an inter-religious, a pan-Abrahamic solution to the inter-religious conflict affecting the Temple Mount.
In that context, please go to “the Temple Project”, www.temple-project.de.