Settlements are unsustainable, and Netanyahu knows it

4:16 pm - March 17th 2010

by Dave Osler    

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Israel’s announcement of plans for 1,600 new settler housing units in illegally occupied Palestinian territory has triggered both stern condemnation from Washington and rioting on the streets of East Jerusalem. And just to highlight their heartfelt regret over these adverse reactions, the Israeli authorities have today confirmed their desire to build 300 more.

It is difficult to interpret such intractable obstinacy as anything other than deliberate provocation, and not just in respect of the timing. As Netanyahu is well aware, substantial withdrawal is the sine qua non for the two-state policy increasingly pressed on his government by the rest of the world.

Yet his evident determination to scupper this outcome is so deep that he is willing quite literally to try and build his way out of his impasse. Not only can he not be allowed to succeed; he cannot succeed, even within his own terms.

Netanyahu’s hardline position puts him directly at odds with majority opinion in his own country. Most Israelis do not regard preservation of settlements in Palestinian territory as a fundamental objective of the state, and do not believe that the interests of settlers take priority over those of the population in general.

Still the administration pushes on with colonisation, either oblivious or more likely perfectly conscious of the consequences, but equally culpable in either eventuality. Yet in the long run, the economic, demographic, diplomatic and political realities that will ultimately culminate in the establishment of a Palestinian state render the practice unsustainable.

The argument is sometimes advanced that any Israeli government calling for the abandonment of even a single settlement would run the risk of civil war. It is indeed the case that some isolated communities are home to potentially terrorist elements inspired by the ideas of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

But these groups lack sufficient wider support to mobilise mass backing for any resistance to an order to withdraw. There is also the precedent of Yamit, an Israeli-built town in northeast Sinai, which was evacuated in 1982 under the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

Ultimately the settlements are an obstacle in the way of a settlement, and that is why the construction work – tellingly, employing mostly Palestinian labour – is being stepped up. But they are not enough of an obstacle to do anything more than delay the inevitable cave in to reality.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments

A sneaky part of me suggests that Palestinians might be happy at the new building – not because they want to protest, but because there will be some nice new houses available when Israel bows to the inevitable and recognises the Palestinian state in the West Bank (I think Gaza with its Hamas control may be a different issue).

Anyone else think this may be Netanyahu testing President Obama’s resolve?

It’s almost as if there were some connection between the US government’s repeated declarations that they’re 100% behind Israel until the end of the universe, and the Israelis’ belief that the Americans won’t cut off their massive financial, military and diplomatic support no matter what they do.

Surely not.

I’m amazed – this article has been up for an hour and a half and no-one has shouted “anti-Semite!” yet…

Forgive me for being naive, but why don’t the Palestinian workers building the settlements just go on strike?

It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Bibi to say that the settlements are unsustainable as if that is something that’s news to him. It’s like telling Dick Cheney that oil prospecting is unsustainable, or telling Henry Kisinger that the war in Vietnam is unsustainable. On the “Stupid or Evil” scale of neocon real politik, Bibi falls neatly on the evil side. He knows the past, present and future miesry that the settlments inflict on both Palestinians and Israelis, he knows that the country will suffer a cataclismic shock when they eventually have to be evacuated, and he knows that the long term implications of his actions to Israel’s future are likely dire.

Newsflash: he doesn’t give a shit. For now, building settlements keeps his coalition together, and keeping the coalition together delivers the only outcome that Bibi is in any way emotionally engaged with: it keeps Bibi in his post as prime minister, and assures that his eventual retirement to the Ivy League speaking circuit will be comfotable. The End.

I’m a broken record on this, but it’s worth the tedium in order to maybe someday have the message heard: if the Americans are serious about peace for Palestine, they need to stop paying Israel to be at war. The best way to ensure the settlements are not expanded further is to make sure there’s no money in the piggy bank to do that with. And that is not something that’s on the gift of anyone other than a brave US administration (or a cunning one – the Bush-Baker loan guarantees scheme is what enabled Oslo, after all).

@3: well, you just did, so we’re on track.

@5 damn self-fulfilling irony…

I would actually love to hear the argument in favour of the new settlements. How can anyone possibly justify it? Because it just seems so wrong, gratuituous, inflammatory, arrogant, counterproductive whichever angle you look at it from.

Please note that I’m not normally pro-Palestinian come what may. I think Israel has unfairly received some rough treatment from the left in the past. But this? Seriously…what is Netanyahu hoping to achieve?

Dave Osler criticises Israel? Never thought I’d see it happen..

I love that this guy has linked to this post:

10. Just Visiting

Did the Obama administration over-react?

The Israelis built some house and get slammed.
But they didn’t air calls for a Jihad against America, as Palestinian Arab TV did.
They didn’t name a square after the murderer of an American photographer, as the Palestinian Authority did.
No Israeli Anchorman did a skit in blackface during Obama’s visit, as a Turkish anchorman did during Obama’s visit there.
Are Israeli religious institutions issuing Fatwahs against America, as Al Azhar University, which Obama visited and spoke at, has done?
Are Israeli leaders funding terrorism against America, as the Saudi King, before whom Obama bowed, does?

11. Just Visiting

Just saw this video footage – apparently showing Hamas using children as human shields:

12. FlyingRodent

Did the Obama administration over-react?

Given that all it’s done is voice its displeasure, it barely even reacted at all. The chances that this will translate into actual, concrete policy changes are zero.

The Israelis built some house and get slammed. But they didn’t –

This is a devastating argument, worthy of gracing any toddler-fight at any nursery in the land.

As ever, I turned to Melanie Phillips for a sane and rational perspective on this issue…

Under a hail of domestic critisism over its reckless and unforgiveable inslaught against Israel, Hillary Clinton – deputed by Obama to do his dirty work last week – is now trying to defuse the crisis by adopting a more emollient tone. But Pandora’s box has now been opened, and the vicious creature that emerged cannot be put back again.

The ever-sagacious John Bolton….

At this point I had to stop reading as my monitor was covered in coffee.

Only a class-A-certified lunatic would describe John Bolton as sagacious. Bloody hell.

Re: 10

You’re entirely correct in pointing out that terrorism is bad.

However, that’s not really what this article’s about. Moral relativism doesn’t affect the fact that Israel’s building houses on land that’s not theirs.

@4, the fact that Netenyahu needs to hold together his coalition Government needs pointing out. But he needs to be consistent with all parties: an interview with the Speaker of the Knesset in Ha’aretz yesterday suggested he has not always been.

@13, well, “Wiggy” Bolton is at least a reliable talking head, even if he is reliably wrong.

17. Mustapha Dump

It’s just Bibi confiming to the world that Obama is a weak leader, as if they didn’t already know.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Settlements are unsustainable, and Netanyahu knows it

  2. Dave Harris

    Worth a read RT @libcon Settlements are unsustainable, and Netanyahu knows it

  3. Allan Siegel

    Settlements are unsustainable, and Netanyahu knows it (saw in @newsfire)

  4. Meet The New Boss « Topical Limerick a Day

    […] poor Bin Netanyahu, To his wits he seems to have bid adieu, Citizens disagree, With his settling decree; He’s not just obtuse, but a […]

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