Netanyahu’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ gimmick

Removing Jewish settlers from the occupied territories is never “ethnic cleansing.” It is justice.

September 13, 2016 21:58
3 minute read.
Israeli flag

A girl holds an Israeli flag on a hilltop near the Maaleh Adumim settlement. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Removing Jewish settlers from the occupied territories is never “ethnic cleansing.” It is justice being served, albeit long, long delayed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken, to say the least, a very incorrect approach in accusing the Palestinian leadership of seeking “ethnic cleansing” of the settlers who dwell in the West Bank. To start with, Jewish settlers and settlements continue to exist in the occupied territories against the rules of international law.

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In mid-September 1967, three months after the June 1967 war, then legal adviser of the foreign ministry Theodor Meron responded to a query from prime minister Levi Eshkol’s bureau about the legality of establishing settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights. His answer was: “My conclusion is that civilian settlements in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Although his position was clear, the Israeli government at the time turned a deaf ear. A week-and-a-half later, the government decided to establish the first settlement, Kfar Etzion near Hebron. The official position of the government was to refrain from defining the territories as occupied, but rather as “administered.”

Changing the definition from occupied to administered may have helped Israel explain its policy worldwide but never changed the legal reality on the ground.

The settlements were illegal and will continue to remain so. Time won’t change this reality.

As a matter of fact, the mere presence of Israelis in Palestine is a form of colonialism.

Oops! Did I say colonialism? Well, sorry. But I’m not the first to use this term.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky did so, too, a little less than 100 years ago. In his famous article “The Iron Wall,” written originally in Russian on November 4, 1923, Jabotinsky referred clearly to Zionism as colonialism and to Zionists as colonialists in Palestine.

No one can question Jabotinsky’s patriotism or Zionism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party still names its headquarters in Tel Aviv after Jabotinsky.

Well. I’m not debating the past. It’s done. It’s irreversible. What matters is now; tomorrow matters even more. This is what we all need to think of. There is no end to this conflict between Palestinians and Israelis without the creation of the independent State of Palestine exactly as stipulated in the UNGA Resolution 19/67 of November 29, 2012 and in the Arab Peace Initiative. However, because of the complexities of evacuating close to half a million settlers in the West Bank, the Palestinian leadership has accepted the notion of minimal and agreed-upon land swaps under which major settlement blocs, where some 80 percent of the settlers live, would remain under Israeli sovereignty.

The rest will have to leave on their own or be told to leave by the very government which sent them there and provided them with all the incentives they dreamed of, and, needless to say, in full contravention with international law.

In the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007, the Palestinian side expressed readiness in principle to host those settlers who would chose to stay where they live in the West Bank. Of course, these settlers would live under Palestinian sovereignty and law. In other words, Jewish settlers who opt to stay in Palestine will have to apply for permanent residence status. Those found fit to stay would be accorded the required permits.

Those who aren’t will have to leave. Isn’t that what every sovereign country does when dealing with applicants who wish to permanently or temporarily reside in its territory? For those serious in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, settlements and settlers are the least complicated of all core issues. Once the Israeli government announces its intention to pull out of the occupied territories and recognize the State of Palestine along the agreed-upon modified borders of June 1967, it will have to announce as well a generous plan to compensate those settlers who will have to leave their homes in the West Bank and return either to the settlement blocs that will remain under Israeli sovereignty or to Israel itself. The settlers are an Israeli problem and it is the duty of Israel to solve that problem. We, the Palestinians, were never part of this problem, and cannot be expected to be more Israeli than Netanyahu.

Removing Jewish settlers from the occupied territories is never “ethnic cleansing.” It is justice.

The author is vice-chairman of the PLO Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society.

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