Reader Post: It’s Not The Settlements, Stupid

image land in Israel

Empty land.

More people would like the Jews if we would just stop calling ourselves the chosen people. Or keeping Shabbat. Or supporting Zionism.

Some people like us as we are, but their friends, who want to like us, just need us to stop that one thing that we’re so wrong about. For our own sake. Don’t be so outspoken with our liberal politics. Support black people more. Support black people less. Cut our sideburns. Eat with other people, even if the food’s not Kosher. Get out of Lebanon. Intermarry. Accept Jesus. Accept Muhammad. Recognize the PLO. Drop the offensive parts from the Talmud. Drop the embarrassing ancient ritual laws from Judaism. Drop the racist tribal laws. Drop the calls to return to Zion. Stop the siege. End the occupation. Stop the genocide. Don’t respond to every rocket fired from Gaza. Be more careful not to kill Arab children.

Like Charlie Brown with the football, we always know it won’t help, and we always know the sacrifice and failure will be costly. But we hope maybe, maybe. If there’s even a chance, don’t we have to try?

Times of Israel editor David Horovitz tells us that now it’s the settlements, stupid. Like all the other claims, there’s some truth to this one too.

Yes, settlement growth makes it harder for the Palestinian Arabs to form a fully sovereign, defensible contiguous state. But even Tzippy Livni said that Abbas understood that a Palestinian Arab state would never be fully sovereign or militarized.

Yes, growth of Jewish communities unilaterally affects the future of the disputed territories. But so would stopping only the Jews from building while the growth of Arab communities in the disputed territories continues unabated.

Yes, settlement activity is a big deal to many Arab and Western leaders. But it’s a big deal to us too. If we don’t want heavily armed and dangerous Islamic fundamentalists bent on our destruction a few miles from our major population centers and our airport, we’re going to have soldiers in the Jordan Valley and on the disputed mountain range. And in today’s political reality, we can’t maintain soldiers without also claiming some of the disputed territories for our civilian populations. And we should not be ashamed to say that we have at least as much right to advance our claims in the disputed territories for which we’ve been praying for millennia as the other side does. If the other side wants a negotiated solution where we stop building, let them negotiate.

The settlements are critical to the future of Israel. They are no more a land grab than Arab building in the disputed territory. Reducing settlement activity could be a subject to negotiations. Absent negotiation, Jews should build as much in the disputed territories as Arabs do.

We’d all like people to stop hating us. But stopping settlements is no more the answer than our other attempts over the millennia. On the contrary. Like the Oslo Accords, Lebanon withdrawal, and Gaza disengagement, it’s far more likely to make things much worse. It’s not the settlements, stupid.

Final note: I don’t like calling my political opponents stupid. Most are not. Certainly David Horovitz is not. But you can’t advance towards civil debate by letting your opponents call you stupid and not calling them on it.

Gil Reich builds and markets websites for Managing Greatness. He’s lived in Eli since 1992, and frequently writes about Israeli and US politics, religion and culture.


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