Month after monthdozens of articles come out discussing how Jewish building in Judea & Samaria destroys any hope for peace between Israel and Palestinians---more specifically, by threatening the two-state solution. Utter rubbish. The only thing it seriously threatens is the unreasonable demand made by the supposedly-moderate Palestinian Authority that a Palestinian state be Judenrein (free of Jews). While some may find the use of this Nazi term unreasonable or offensive, I'm using it for a reason. Pro-Palestinian activists cannot complain about "apartheid practices" in Israel and the Territories (such practices do not exist), and then demand an independent Palestine that is free of Jews while Israel (which already has a significant Arab minority) take in the Palestinians residing in other Arab lands. Not only would that mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, but it would mean the Palestinians themselves would be practicing apartheid. 

Disappointingly, the international community--most notably the European Union and the United Nations--continue to demand an evacuation of the vast majority, if not all, of the Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria, the heartland of ancient Jewish civilization that was given the colonial name of "West Bank" by the occupying British (and later, Jordanian) forces in an effort to erase Jewish history there. John Kerry, the embarrassing former secretary-of-state, even proclaimed in his December 2016 address on Middle East peace that it would be impossible for any Jews to remain living in the West Bank. There are numerous problems with Kerry's speech, and the liberal-internationalist order's viewpoint on this topic more generally. The first is that it ignores the illegality of the Jordanian occupation of land that was designated to be part of the Jewish state in 1917, and other times later. It whitewashes the history of riots by Arabs against Jewish communities in Jerusalem and Hebron in the 1920s, 1930s, and later---not to mention the fact that there was a strong Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem, Hebron, and elsewhere in Judea & Samaria. While proclaiming that Israel is "ethnically cleansing Palestine", pro-Palestinian activists conveniently forget the fact that there was ethnic cleansing against Jews in lands east of the Green Line, as well as the destruction or desecration of important historical and holy sites to Jews, who were forbidden to access areas such as the Kotel. (Christian access to their holy sites in eastern Jerusalem was limited, and often times these areas were also desecrated). The Jewish people's return to these lands after the Six-Day War was not only appropriate according to the Balfour Declaration and the Zionist dream, but was also justice playing out after their neighborhoods had been destroyed, cleansed, and occupied by Jordan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out this glaring hypocrisy last year, but was roundly condemned for it.  In other words, the international community is perfectly OK with this double-standard, or at best, is very unaware and would rather a quick fix to this problem even if it means a lack of social justice. 

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But the second problem is that it continues to push the soft bigotry of low expectations in regards to the Palestinians (and perhaps more generally, Arabs and Muslims), despite the fact that the United Nations and European Union declare themselves to be champions of Muslim/Arab rights in these difficult  times. Just look at John Kerry's speech, where he says the following: 

"Now, you may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers who don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine, like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends. The Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s law. Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?"

He may very well be right, but it still begs the question: why does he outright assume that at least Jews living in the Territories would be unwilling to live by Palestinian laws? If it is possible for Israeli-Arabs to live in Haifa subject to the Knesset's laws, why wouldn't it be possible for a Jew in Ofra to reciprocate? It seems that despite his claims just moments earlier that he believed in a just peace and dignity for Palestinians, Kerry is assuming that an independent Palestine would become either a theocracy like Saudi Arabia or an autocratic, corrupt state like Egypt. He is predicting that Jews who remained in such  situation would either be isolated and maybe carry out attacks on Palestinians, or that they would become second-class citizens (or worse) in an independent Palestine. In other words, not only is Kerry not being fair to Jews or Israel, but he is making potentially racist or, at the very least, ignorant comments and assumptions about the Palestinians, and more broadly, the potential or inherent nature of Arab and Islamic countries in the Greater Middle East. This statement, and other similar ones made by countless officials from all over the world, betray what the peace process is supposed to be about and what the goal ideally is. 

By denying the right of Jews to return to communities they inhabited throughout history before Amman's policy of ethnic cleansing and occupation, they deny a just and lasting peace for all parties. They perpetuate this with demands for Israel to withdraw Jews from the West Bank while retaining a significant Arab minority population; compensating, apologizing for, and taking in countless Palestinians in other countries while refusing to make the same demand of Islamic countries that saw an exodus of Jews to Israel from 1948 onwards; and denying the historic reality of the conflict. 

By implying that a Palestinian state would not be democratic, or at least would violate human rights of a minority group that could potentially live within its borders, they are promoting the very Islamophobic, anti-Arab sentiment they claim to be fighting against. In fact, this viewpoint only strengthens those in Israel and elsewhere who say a two-state solution is impossible or undesirable for security reasons; contradicts their stated goal for reaching peace and promoting stability in the region; seriously calls into question the EU's, UN's, and USA's commitment and ability to help make a free and democratic Palestine; and allows for distrust, fear, and hatred to fester in the region. 

By focusing solely or mostly on "settlements", advocates for a two-state solution are overlooking incitement, racism, intransigence, terrorism, historical revisionism (or as it is common to say today, alternative facts), apartheid-advocacy, ethnic cleansing-promotion, political divides, and human rights violations within the Palestinian Territories that harm both its own inhabitants as well as those of Israel (and tourists). This not only makes Israel question the ability or desire of these advocates to create more security and peace for Israel, but it backs Jerusalem in a corner, making Israel (and indirectly, the Palestinians) more intransigent and puts peace even further out of reach. This is also due to a deep misunderstanding of the mindset of Jews, especially in Israel, that after centuries of dispersal and persecution and decades of genocidal terror campaigns, we're extremely cautious, stubborn, and hesitant to do anything that puts our people's safety at risk again. 

The "experts" of the European Union, United Nations, and Obama Administration weren't experts at all, as they didn't understand this. When Bill Clinton had Israel's back, particularly under Yitzhak Rabin, Jerusalem was more willing to take risks for peace, whether it was negotiating with Syria about the future of the Golan or negotiating a two-state solution with the terrorist Yasser Arafat. It was, in fact, Palestinian and Syrian intransigence and the killing of Rabin that led to his failure to negotiate peace (history would repeat itself in this regard in 2008). George W. Bush treated Israel as a vital ally in the War on Terror and largely supported its military campaigns to protect itself (later even recognizing the reality of the settlement blocs). In return, Israel completely withdrew from Gaza and agreed to a ceasefire with Hezbollah (both of which, in hindsight, turned out to be serious mistakes, but that's for another article). Even Donald Trump's continued aid to Israel and support for it at the UN, along with his personal friendship with Bibi, persuaded the prime minister to curtail settlement growth in Judea & Samaria and stop or delay annexation bids in the Knesset. On the other hand, Barack Obama's hostility to Netanyahu and ignorance of Middle East issues didn't achieve the peace deal he so coveted, but instead pushed it far out of reach. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will only come when there is the beginning of a basic level of trust (a very, very basic level). Instead of trying to make grand bargains immediately on the four large issues--security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem--the international community would do better to make both sides appear to each other that they truly desire peace. In other words, an inside-out, bottom-up approach. 

International institutions would do better to push Israel to slow or halt its demolition practices of Bedouin villages in the Negev, and do more to fight the hardships faced by Israeli-Arabs in its society, as well as doing more to integrate and better the well-being of other underprivileged minority groups (Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews, Soviet Jews, African Jews, asylum seekers), women in Orthodox communities, and the LGBT community. When the Palestinians, and the rest of the world, see that Israel is doing much more for their kin across the Green Line (and other communities that face hardships), fear, anger, and hatred will slowly subside, and the siren call of racist incitement will be much less tempting. Unfair or untrue attacks slandering Israel on the college campus will also be harder to promote. Indeed, Israel is the most humane country and only democracy in that part of the world. 

Similarly, the international community needs to press the Palestinians on a number of issues. If, as they claim, the problem is with Zionism rather than with Jews ( Zionism needn't be, shouldn't be, and isn't a problem, but, again, that's for discussion at another time), make them prove it. Threaten to decrease or withhold funding until payments to terrorists and their families are halted; until incitement stops; until Israel is recognized as a Jewish state; and until they accept that some settlers should be allowed to remain. In Cyprus, there is a willingness to accept a certain quota of Turkish settlers on the northern part of the island to remain in Cyprus under a final peace deal. Similarly, the Palestinians should realize that for economic, demographic, and security reasons, it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to remove all Jews in Judea & Samaria. The international community could from there work to dislodge Hamas and other jihadist groups from influential and/or powerful positions, form a democratic unity government in the Territories that grants equality to all, and build institutions to prepare for independence beforehand. When Israel and its allies around the world see that the Palestinians are improving their society, becoming more stable, and acknowledging Jewish historical ties to Eretz Yisrael (historic Palestine, in their terms), as well as being somewhat accepting of some Jewish communities potentially remaining in the West Bank, there's a likelihood that some settlements or outposts would be evacuated quickly to comply with Ramallah's desires. 

The world powers also need to approach the Arab World more broadly to bring about peace. Just as racial tensions in the West (and some other places, to a lesser degree) eased after numerous European countries or groups acknowledged their role in the suffering of people of color (via slavery, war, colonialism, occupation, apartheid, discrimination, and genocide), it can occur in the Middle East too. The Arab World must reckon with, acknowledge, and apologize for, its role in the African slave trade and colonization of the entire Near East and parts of Africa. Some of the conflicts in the Middle East go back to this era, predating any European meddling or influence, and the suffering of countless Kurds, Jews, Yezidis, Persians/Zoroastrians, Berbers, Black Africans, Assyrians, Copts, and Asians, was due to the Arab Conquest and Islamic Supremacist ideology. The first step towards reconciliation is acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and making some sort of effort to compensate for it. The Arab countries also owe an apology to the Palestinians for the mistreatment of their refugees, who, more often than not, have languished for decades in refugee camps rather than being integrated into society (which Israel did with the over a million Jewish refugees from Islamic lands after its creation). They should be pressured to absorb the vast majority of the Palestinians living in their countries today (most of whom were born in these countries and have never set foot in Israel or the Territories), especially since many of them told Palestinians to leave the Mandate in the first place to avoid the 1948 war. As far as refugee resettlement goes, some should be allowed back into an independent Palestine, although this may prove difficult economically and for reasons of political stability. Furthermore, Israel should not be expected to repatriate, compensate, or apologize for the 1948 refugees until or unless the Arab World (and Iran, to a lesser degree, due to the 1979 revolution that compelled many Jews to flee from there) does the same. 

The settlements shouldn't be treated as an obstacle to peace, but rather an obstacle to the unreasonable, unfair, and racist demands of the international community and Palestinian Authority directed towards Israel and Jews. It isn't fraying an independent Palestine, but rather a tired and failed method of peacemaking that only led to more bloodshed. It's an opportunity to showcase coexistence between Arabs and Jews and is "sharing" the land to the fullest, while also encouraging Jerusalem to do more for the Israeli-Arab community. This is an opportunity to push forward the acknowledgement of historic suffering--and history itself--that can bring an end to the soft bigotry of low expectations, double standards, and hopefully the conflict itself. 

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