Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's the settlements, stupid. And they aren't going any where.

(This blog has been entirely, disgustingly, self-focused as of late. Enough of that. And now for something completely different.)

The powerful seem to have decided what sort of peace they will impose on Palestine. Everyone whose declared themselves a say in Palestine's future, from President Bush and the liberal elite, are all talking about the same "final-status solution."

I bow to the predictions of anyone with a better crystal ball than mine, but I suspect that this trend has been obvious to a great many outside observers and crystal-clear to many Palestinians: It's the settlements, stupid. The major Israeli settlement blocks will not be returned to Palestine and the consequences of absorbing their land into Israel could be disastrous.

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, an organization consisting of mainstream Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders, has been pressuring the Bush administration to more actively broker a two-state peace agreement. Their plan is based on preexisting Bush/Clinton policies and includes the following proposals:
  • Israel must withdraw to it's 1967 boarders
  • Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine
  • Palestinian refugees will receive compensation for their lost property and aid in settling into new homes (mostly outside of Israel. Israel would re-admit only as many Palestinian as would allow it to maintain a Jewish majority).
  • Land-swaps would allow Israel to retain some of the West Bank land where its settlers now live.
In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (a book that didn't especially impress me), former President Jimmy Carter outlines a very similar proposal for peace:
Withdrawal to the 1967 border as specified in U.N. Resolution 242 and as promised in the Camp David accords and the Oslo Agreement and prescribed in the Roadmap of the International Quartet...Good faith negotiations can lead to mutually agreeable exchanges of land perhaps permitting a significant number of settlers to remain in their present homes near Jerusalem. (pg. 216)
It's the last point in both of these plans that has me worried. If Israel is allowed to retain land in the West Bank, it's obvious which parts they will choose. The map to the right shows Israeli settlements in the West Bank represented in the darker blue. There are three principle settlement blocks, which I've done my best to circle in read. Ariel, Ma'aledumim and Gilo are home to thousands Israeli citizens. Like all settlements in the West Bank, they are illegal under international law.

Ariel is located in the Sulfit region, an area known as the food basket of the West Bank. Ma'aleadumim surrounds Jerusalem and separates the Northern half of the West Bank from the Southern. Gilo surrounds Bethlehem. If Israel keeps Ariel, it keeps some of the best land in the West Bank. If it keeps Ma'aleadumim and Gilo, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Ramallah will be cut off from each other. These three city represent 90-95% of the West Bank's potential for economic growth.

Over the last 40 years of occupation, Palestine has become increasingly dependent on Israeli goods, and in better days Israeli jobs. Even if Palestine retained all of the West Bank, its economy would have difficulty recovering. But if these settlement blocks and the land surrounding them become a part of Israel, recovering will be doubly difficult.

But Israel would only acquire these lands under a "mutually agreeable" land swap. So Palestine will get some great land from Israel, right? Bluntly, I can't believe that will happen. Israel is not going to give Palestine its most productive land. Palestine wont get the land between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Palestine will probably get some land in the Negev desert. The Negev is beautiful, but it is not economically viable. It's certainly not comparable to the land that Palestine will lose. (Especially if we remember that Palestine has already lost all of the land it enjoyed before 1948.) If you'll pardon me, this is a sand-for-peace proposal.

Once a "final-status agreement" is reached and something approaching peace follows, the international community will, in all likelihood, proceed to ignore Palestine all together. International aid money will dry out. Palestine's economy will remain dependent on Israel's, ripe for easy exploitation. The occupation might end, but I don't see how Israeli colonialism wont.

In this blog, I try to write about the hopeful signs I see in Palestine. It's a tricky business, as I feel no right to declare what looks good and what looks bad for a people I am not a part of, but there are enough people writing about all the terrible things that are happening. However, as I start to really understand the consequences of Israel's "facts on the ground" that the Israeli government has worked hard to create, it's hard to be hopeful.

How can settlement expansion be resisted?


Anonymous said...

1. There's no such thing as "Palestine".

2. Jews lived in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza for thousands of years straight until the Arabs ethnically cleansed all Jews in 1948 (1929 in Hebron and elsewhere). That doesn't give them a "right" to keep these parts of OUR land Judenrein.

3. Of course you know that they belong to the nation of Israel and not to the nation of Ishmael- right? You do own a Bible, don't you? People who claim to be Christians do:

"And Abraham gave ALL that he had to Isaac. But to the sons of the concubines that Abraham had, he gave gifts and sent them away from his son while he yet lived, eastward, to the east country." (Genesis 25:5-6)

Ishmael was the son of Hagar, a concubine. Yes, the seed of Ishmael was also to become a nation [Gen 21:13], a great nation [Gen 21:18], etc... however, that doesn't mean that it means here in the land of Israel, which CLEARLY and EXCLUSIVELY belongs to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As you, who claim to be Christian, surely must know.

That leaves the other 99.9% of the Midle East for the great nation of Ishmael. I don't see how they can complain.

4. Of course we will continue to grow and build and plant and thrive in OUR land, just as G-d promised.

5. If you haven't read Ezekiel lately (and my guess is that you haven't), enjoy:

Ezekiel 37: (Auschwitz to Israel)

12 Therefore prophesy, and say unto them: Thus saith the L-rd G-d: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.

13 And ye shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

14 And I will put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you in your own land; and ye shall know that I the Lord have spoken, and performed it, saith the L-rd.'

I know it, and one day you will too- hopefully soon.

For your own sake. Ever hear of the prophet Joel? This is Chapter 4:1-2:

For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there for My people and for My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and divided My land.

You want to divide the land that G-d gave to the nation of Israel? You better reconsider.

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