Settlement communities: The bridge to socioeconomic peace

The Blue and White list also publicized their political program wherein it aims to advance a political process to “separate from the Palestinians.

By YOCHAI DAMRI
March 21, 2019 22:41
3 minute read.
A general view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank Septe

A general view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron, in the West Bank September 11, 2018. Picture taken September 11, 2018. (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)

 
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New dramas unfold each day during the current elections, and as a natural consequence, the platforms of the various parties, as well as the economic, social and policy positions of list members and leaders, are gradually made public. A while ago, the Labor Party publicized its political program “Paths to Separation,” wherein a demilitarized Palestinian state would be established, and building outside settlement blocs would be stopped. At best, the practical implications of such a program are that the lives of tens of thousands of Israeli citizens will come to a dead halt.

The Blue and White list also publicized their political program wherein it aims to advance a political process to “separate from the Palestinians.” It went so far as to state that a second disengagement or unilateral withdrawal would not occur. But, within that “refusal” an “acceptance” is also clearly discernible: that is, withdrawals by agreement and the evacuation of communities will undoubtedly take place after such “peace agreements.” Tens of thousands could be uprooted from their homes as a result of “peace agreements” such as these.

It would seem that the heads of the various parties, especially those to the center or left of the spectrum, are dreaming grand political dreams, born mainly of what they wish would be true, rather than any connection to factual reality. These political platforms, as they have been publicized, are liable to lead the Jewish nation to further painful expulsions, higher security risks, additional terrorist attacks, more terror and an increased death toll. The price of these dreams will be paid by the Israeli citizen, and it will be paid by the settlement communities in Judea and Samaria. Israel has not yet fully recovered from the economic and social damage wrought by the disengagement, and is paying the price for the billions invested in building fences, in the Iron Dome, the costs of the expulsion itself, and compensation for settlers, etc. The State of Israel will not withstand the cost of any more political misadventures.

THIS IS the time to explain to all political party heads, including those who will have to withstand pressure by the US government when confronted with the “Deal of the Century,” which is to be formulated immediately after the elections, that what both Israel and the Arabs need is economic and social peace. There is a need for practical economic understandings and agreements which result from collaboration and shared interests: in economic well-being, health services, trade and industry. These collaborations, which already occur on a daily basis, will perhaps not earn leaders a Nobel Prize in Stockholm, nor will they culminate in international headlines of a handshake on the White House lawns, but they will lead to economic prosperity and social wellbeing.

For quite a while, the Barkan joint industrial area has been an outstanding model for collaboration between Jews and Arabs, and is the wellspring of sources for local employment for both populations. A similar industrial area at Har Hevron is currently in the planning stages, and flourishing businesses and factories are expected to be established there to benefit the residents of the Har Hevron and Negev areas and their visitors. The planned industrial area has already attracted extensive interest from business executives worldwide. Politics and political matters are not on the agenda, and do not hinder such collaboration in any way.


Increasing the availability of employment in these industrial areas will prevent tens of thousands of Arabs from traveling to work within Israel, with all the inherent difficulties and bureaucracy involved, and will allow them to earn a decent living in the vicinity of their homes.

As someone who is well acquainted with the Arab population, is in contact with them on a daily basis and listens to word on the street there, I can safely state that their distress is not a national, but rather a socioeconomic one. What really interests the residents of the area is their health, their livelihood and achieving a life of well-being and quiet. This need is not sufficiently met by the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the Arab population is disconnected from its leadership, and demonstrates a total lack of confidence in it.

The need of the hour is to expand collaborations to include health, education and other fields as well – not through international initiatives, but rather entirely through Israeli initiatives. Once the State of Israel learns to view the settlement communities in Judea and Samaria as an asset and not a liability, as an impetus for change and not a roadblock, it will discover that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace but rather a bridge for achieving economic and social peace.

The writer is head of the Mount Hevron Regional Council.

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