Analysis: Building settlements in response to terror is not a policy

The Israeli government is notoriously inept at conveying, to what remains admittedly an unreceptive, indeed adversarial, international community its posture vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Israeli security forces and emergency personnel work at the scene of shooting attack, near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, December 9, 2018 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Israeli security forces and emergency personnel work at the scene of shooting attack, near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, December 9, 2018
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
"They Kill, We Build," a mantra repeated in the wake of every Palestinian terror attack, refers to the counter-productive and dangerous expansion of Jewish communities in the West Bank in the absence of a long-term strategy for dealing with the complex realities therein. This ideological maxim, espoused by proponents of the Jewish people's legitimate right to live freely in its biblical heartland, too often is exploited by right-wing politicians to appease their bases in lieu of making tough and necessary decisions that are liable to have the greatest impact on shaping Israel's future.
That the term "settler" has entered the global lexicon as a pejorative for Israelis living in territories over which Palestinians would like to raise their flag is simply evidence of Jerusalem's abject failure to counter the concerted campaign spearheaded by those wishing to create a "Palestine" devoid of Jews. This designation is a central tenet of their anti-"occupation" propaganda, painting Israelis in the West Bank as "colonialists" and thereby dehumanizing them to the degree that justifies their murder on the rationalization that it "serves them right" or "they had it coming."
The Israeli government is notoriously inept at conveying, to what remains admittedly an unreceptive, indeed adversarial, international community its posture vis-à-vis the Palestinians. With specific respect to the West Bank, the issue is not only a legal one but, more importantly, is correlated to that of Zionism and the assertion, after 2,000 years of exile, of the Jewish people of their renewed self-determination. Unless, therefore, the government can explain to mainstreet why, and to what end, Israel is "confiscating" purported Palestinian land, it remains impossible to reverse the stigma attached to nearly 400,000 Israeli citizens living across the 1967 borders.
Of greater significance is that the government's patent inadequacy in the forgoing regard has fostered conditions that render it unable to fulfill its most fundamental and crucial function: namely, to keep its people safe. This was made starkly apparent last week when two Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in the West Bank; another was seriously wounded in a stabbing; and a three-day-old infant was laid to rest after being delivered prematurely following injuries sustained by his mother in a drive-by shooting.
Somewhat perversely, this situation creates, ironically, a feedback-loop of strategic vulnerability and tactical suffering, as the “settler” community protests against an administration that then satisfies its every desire, despite the ensuing and predictable consequences. In domino fashion, each case of subsequent government acquiescence to their demands, dictated primarily by electoral considerations, transforms them not only into targets of further Palestinian bullets, knives and vehicular attacks but also of worldwide opprobrium.
Case in point is the focus on Israeli "land-grabbing" by the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement, which acts merely as a cover for mainstreaming the rank anti-Semitism harbored and disseminated by many of its adherents. Nor does erecting a few homes in disputed areas do anything to solve the conflict with the Palestinians and, in fact, exacerbates it while blowing wind into the sails of Israel's detractors.
The more appropriate course of action would be to invest in infrastructure to support and safeguard those Jews already residing in the West Bank.
For instance, it is obvious to all that the transportation system in what should be considered hostile territory is so woefully inadequate that Israelis are required to expose themselves by hitching rides from shanty shelters located along major highways and at busy intersections. Funds could, therefore, readily be allocated towards the development of a network of buses connecting Jewish West Bank communities that also commute to primary places of employment. Concurrently, the rusty rotten goal posts that act as makeshift stops might be replaced with bullet-proof structures that, while not foolproof, would provide a modicum of protection in the event of attack.
With respect to the macro options, they are few and well-known.
Israel can annex the entire West Bank and grant citizenship to some two million Palestinians, a move that critics contend will lead, eventually, to the emergence of a bi-national state with a Jewish minority. There also is the possibility of applying Israeli law only to Area C of the West Bank, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of its total territory and where some 90 percent of its Jews reside. This would limit the number of Palestinians formally incorporated into Israel but at the same time minimize the potential for a two-state solution as the remaining Palestinian cantons would amount to mere non-contiguous dots on a map.
The third path is the peace process, a seemingly never-ending extension of the 1993 Oslo Accords that most agree will bear no fruit any time soon. Nonetheless, United States President Donald Trump is preparing to roll-out his much-hyped proposal early next year and it may contain new parameters that could reframe the issues and perhaps offer more realistic solutions than the longstanding, failed paradigm.
Otherwise, the creation of a Palestinian state comes with its own perils for Israel, foremost the likelihood that this new entity would be overrun by Hamas as was the case when the terror group ousted its rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a 2007 internecine war. That Palestinian elections have not been held for over a decade is testament to the expectation that Hamas would win again. This would give the genocidal Islamists a "mandate" to continue waging jihad to eradicate the Jewish state, and from a more advantageous location only a few kilometers of major Israeli civilian centers and critical infrastructure.
The final option, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has long been suspected of favoring, is to maintain the status quo until conditions enable or force Israel to adopt one of the first two alternatives; this, failing any reformation within Palestinian society that enhances the probability of actualizing the third.
"They Kill, We Build" is, by contrast, not a policy but, rather, an escapist catchphrase devoid of real substance which, evidently, does little to secure Israelis in the West Bank or advance any well-defined national interest.
In this vein, following the latest terrorism spree, Netanyahu again vowed to "strengthen" Jewish communities across the Green Line without articulating the benefits, and drawbacks, of doing so. If his goal is to build and build with a view to maintaining the West Bank in perpetuity, thereby inhibiting the creation of a Palestinian state, then the government should come clean and prepare for the ramifications thereof. Should Jerusalem instead decide to pursue a wait-and-see approach, then this precludes on moral grounds inserting more Israelis into the center of an ongoing conflict.
Indeed, until the government publicly presents a rational, all-encompassing plan that advances explicit goals, setting up a few shops here or there in contested territory is irresponsible to the extent that it serves only to foster additional uncertainty, instability and, ultimately, the murder of Jews.
In this respect, the "settlers" are not a front line defending Tel Aviv, even though some may view themselves as such; rather, they are Israeli civilians and the government therefore has the responsibility not to pander to them but to uphold their rights.
The most important being the one to life.
Charles Bybelezer is managing editor of The Media Line, an American news agency focusing on the Middle East. The views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the agency.