The Logic Behind Israel's West Bank Settlements.
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Are the settlements intended to be military outposts in a future Palestinian state?
Or was the idea that they would be the seeds from which gradual Jewish colonization of the whole West Bank would proceed? And if so, how realistic is that?
It would make brutal sense if the settlers had some sort of plan to ethnically cleanse the local Palestinian population, a la 1948. Or, if they thought the demographics would favor them so much that the Palestinians would eventually reach the status of American Indians, who could be confined on a few reservations.
But since neither of these prospects look likely to happen, in what way do the settlements make sense?
I repeat, I am not interested in arguing about the morality of the whole thing, just about its practicality, which I have never seen an argument for (with the exception of Moshe Dayan's view, expressed in his autobiography, that Israeli occupation would bring such social and economic benefits to the Palestinians that their hostility to Israel would fade away).
- "West Bank"
- "ethnically cleans(ing)...a la 1948"
- "the status of American Indians"
Your phrasing of the situation and emotive juxtapositions frame an argument that's so contentious I'm not up for it, except to say, I strongly object to your characterization of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Now I think I understand the logic behind what the suicide bombers are doing. They want to make life intolerable for the Jews, so that they will lose the will to defend their country. It's horrible, but, from their point of view, it makes sense.
But the settlements -- what else should they be called?-- don't seem to make any sense at all, from the Jewish point of view. They seem like a different way to commit suicide, without any advantages.
But there must be someone who can explain their logic.
Simple question: what was/is supposed to happen to all the Palestinians living in the West Bank?
Peoples have displaced each other throughout history. The Jews were driven out of Europe, those who were lucky enough to survive; the Greeks from Turkey; the Greeks from Northern Cyprus; the Armenians from Turkey; the Indians from most of North America; and we could no doubt add dozens of more examples of peoples who were pushed out of the land they were on, or who were outright exterminated, or who were assimilated into the conquering people.
But I don't see how any of these scenarios could apply to the Palestinians.
The Zionists certainly don't want to assimilate them.
They had a chance, briefly, in the immediate aftermath of the war, to try drive them out of the West Bank, but they didn't do it.
They didn't even try, or so I understand, to make their lives so miserable that they would leave (I am talking about the pre-intifada days) -- on the contrary.
So ... what was supposed to happen to them, or with them? What were the settlers thinking? It just doesn't make military sense to me, and I have never been able to get someone to explain the cold hard military logic of it.
I've worked a lot with armed groups in Africa who can be called "rebels" or "liberation movements" depending on your point of view. But once you accept that they can't be beaten militarily, then it's very important to understand what they want. Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, and indeed a number of prominent Israelis were called "terrorists" in their time but are now all respected politicians. Even the Lord's Resistance Army, whose methods are generally despised by everyone, has an agenda and if peace is to come to northern Uganda that agenda must be understood. Moral judgements are often suspended, at least temporarily, in order to make peace.
I'm no expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict, but there are a few dynamics which could be possible answers to your question.
- the very cynical one is that the settlements are simply a bargaining ploy. It's not unusual to see fighting intensifying shortly before a cease-fire as both sides want to enter the negotiations holding as strong a hand as possible. The more of your enemy's land that you hold, the tougher your bargaining position can be. You have no intention of keeping that land, but you will sell it very dearly for concessions from the other side at the negotiating table.
- at the other end of the spectrum, there might be a genuine, sincere, committed, fanatical, fundamentalist (the term will vary depending on your view point) ideological or religious belief that Israelis have a right to this land. This ideological belief then trumps military realpolitik.
- the government may recognise that the settlements are not militarily viable but for political reasons may be unable to control the settlers, ie the domestic political price would be too high.
- there may be a state of denial by the stronger military power that they would ever really have to concede defeat and compromise on the issue of the settlements.
- there may be no real policy, just confusion, as Israel has had frequent changes of government with varying approaches, and there is a great deal of diversity of opinion within Israel on the settlements.
Or more probably it is a combination of all of these. But I'd be interested to hear from those who know more about the dynamics of this particular conflict.
The settlements and their linkages occupy militarily dominant ground from which the IDF can restrict combatant movement, keep ears on the ground, and launch counterterrorist operations with greater efficacy than from Israel-proper.
There's no better illustration of this than Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza. Ever since the pull-out, the vast majority of Qassam rocket attacks have been launched from Gaza (non-occupied), while the West Bank (occupied) has been comparatively trouble-free. I wonder why that is?
If military viability means freedom from Qassams, then the West Bank will be "militarily viable" for some time to come.
I also agree that the settlements will be a bargaining chip in any future negotiated settlement of the Palestinian 'problem'. One need only look at the Sinai to see that historically, the Israelis have not been shy about trading land for peace.
One can of course question the viability of such a stratagem when negotiating with intransigents . . .
(1) A bargaining chip, to be traded at some point in the future for peace. Settlements for Peace.
(2) Military bases, for observation and control of threats to Israel proper, presumably to be liquidated when/if the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist.
And is this what the settlers themselves think? And if not, what do they think will become of the Palestinians.
Almigwin: in a rational world, maybe something like you propose would be possible.
But in a rational world, there would not have been a problem in the first place, because, when the Zionists first proposed to make a Jewish state in the Mid-East, the Arabs there would have jumped for joy at getting high-quality immigrants, backed by overseas money, bringing talent and connections and entrepreneurship to their region.
A Hong Kong all of their own, and in all this merely in exchange for Jewish sovereignty over a tiny fraction of the Middle East, with full citizenship for local Arabs, and good prices for their land for those who wanted to sell, jobs for Arabs, trading partners, sources for the diffusion of technical and scientific and medical knowledge, the Middle East becoming a new center for the best in science, philosophy, music, art (as Vienna was in the 1920s before the Austrians murdered all their Jews) ...
.. they should have welcomed the Jews home, as their long-lost brethern, fleeing from a hostile Europe. By now the two peoples would be on a par with Europe, or beyond it.
If men were rational ...
By making intractability a two-edged sword - and forcing a settlement sooner rather than later - they deny the Palestinians the lazy option of simply waiting it out.
A more cynical ploy would involve tempering the demographic pressure within Israel itself: future resolution of the Palestinian question could involve the exchange of settlers and settler-land with Arab Israelis who would rather return to a Palestinian polity than live under Jewish rule.
As for what the settlers think . . . who knows? If they're thinking of an Eretz Israel then they are sadly mistaken (just as Palestinians are delusional if they're thinking of untrammelled right of return). But if they're pragmatists - there's a compelling logic to do what they do in the national interest.