Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Settlements Undermine Israeli Identity

Israel’s got it tough. This small nation, with a population equivalent to that of Virginia, faces animosity on all sides. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, the Israeli Defense Forces have handled the nation’s antagonists decisively. But the force most capable of hurting Israel in the present is not a traditional one. Bullets and tanks are not applicable solutions to this unrecognized subversive force.

The settlement movement in Israel claims to represent its nation’s best interests, but in all actuality the movement’s shortsighted political victories ultimately threaten the long-term stability of the country.

Settlements are Israeli communities established outside the borders of internationally recognized Israel on land designated by the United Nations for a future Palestinian state. According to international law, Israel cannot transfer its civilian population into that land, but that is, in a sentence, the goal of the settlement movement.

Previous Israeli leaders encouraged settlers to create “facts on the ground” by expanding as much as possible beyond the U.N.-designated national border. Ideological settlers feel compelled to settle the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as they refer to it, based on religion. But, when faith isn’t enough motivation, money suffices. The majority of settlers relocate to the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to immense financial incentives from the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently upheld the precedent of settlement foundation and expansion by allowing the moratorium on building to end. Time and time again, the Israeli government’s refusal to re-evaluate its settlement policy has created increasingly sticky diplomatic situations, not to mention domestic tensions.

Perhaps the most detrimental effect of the settlements is the erosion of Israel’s reputation internationally. Israel can always count on the United States, but Israel’s relationships with European nations have certainly suffered from the settlement’s blatant violation of numerous U.N. resolutions and the International Court of Justice’s rulings. With Israel’s cultural and economic forces thriving, it should not be facing boycotts from British, Norwegian, Irish, French, German, South African, Canadian and even U.S. organizations. These boycotts are not anti-Israeli; rather they oppose Israel’s policy of settlements and occupation in the West Bank. The majority of Israeli society is therefore hurt by the smaller percentage that disregards international law and lives illegally in settlements.

The fundamental problem of the settlements, however, is that they ultimately defy the belief in Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. Jews are a majority in Israel itself, so despite the minority of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, it remains a Jewish state. However, settlements take land that is majority Palestinian while cutting the land that should be set aside for a sovereign Palestinian state into pieces. It is therefore hypocritical to voice a belief in a two-state solution when the settlement policy is gradually making that option impossible. If the expansion of settlements continues, a one-state solution may be the only remaining option. If Israel becomes majority Palestinian, it will undermine its identity as a Jewish state.

That’s certainly not in Israel’s best interest, and Israel has expressed a deep desire to reach an agreement on a two-state solution. However, Israel’s staunch settlement policy has led to the demise of peace talks in the past. Throughout the Oslo Accords, a time of great hope for peace, the number of settlers nearly doubled. With twice the number of settlers, Israeli military presence and actions within the West Bank increased as well. The extreme disparity between the hope portrayed in the media, the reality of the continued settlement expansion and the rapidly declining quality of life for Palestinians sowed distrust and cynicism, and when it came time for Arafat to make concessions, no Palestinian would dream of supporting him.

Now there is a new opportunity for peace, and Netanyahu’s refusal to compromise on settlement policy already has Palestinian negotiators ready to walk. Israel cannot afford to let the settlements derail a real chance for sustained peace. This internal enemy can’t be fought with military might. Israelis have to look to their own long-term stability and save their nation from itself.

Elise Garofalo is a junior in the College. She can be reached at TIN CAN TELEPHONE appears every other Friday.”

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