How much more evidence does anyone need that Israel, of its own accord, isn’t about to budge from the West Bank?
By LARRY DERFNER
We make a point of judging everybody on their deeds, not their words – everybody but ourselves.When we say every Israeli wants peace, when two out of three Israelis consistently tell pollsters they’d give up settlements for peace, when our Likud prime minister tells the world he now accepts the two-state solution, we say: You hear that? Listen to our words. What further proof does anyone need of our peaceful intentions?But then there’s this little matter of deeds, of what Israel actually does. On the ground. And our deeds tell a somewhat different story than our words.“Despite a 2002 road map commitment and years of pledges by successive prime ministers including Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel has no intention in the forseeable future of dismantling any of the 23 unauthorized West Bank outposts built after March 2001, The Jerusalem Post has learned.” So began Tovah Lazaroff’s lead story yesterday.Now really, how much more evidence does anyone need that Israel, of its own accord, isn’t about to budge from the West Bank? US envoy George Mitchell, who just came here, left and is on his way back for more, was quoted in The New York Times saying: “I believe Netanyahu is serious, capable and interested in reaching an agreement. What I cannot say is if he is willing to agree to what is needed to secure an agreement.”What is needed from Israel in a peace agreement, according to everyone who matters, is the removal of about 100,000 settlers from the interior of the West Bank, and the handing over of that land to the Palestinian Authority. If Mitchell is really asking himself whether Netanyahu would do that or not, then I’m afraid he may still be a little bit behind the curve.LET HIM try this experiment. Let him say to Netanyahu: How about a confidence-building measure, a minimal show of good faith, a small gesture to convince the Palestinians you mean what you say about the two-state solution? Since the PA has come such a long way from the days of Yasser Arafat, since it’s been fighting terror seriously for three years, since it’s been working closely with the IDF and Shin Bet (!), since it’s helped make the West Bank safer than it’s been in nearly 25 years – since the PA has gone so far in giving Israel peace, Israel ought to do its part by giving the PA at least some land.Not much. Just one settlement. Which one? The smallest one, okay? Give up the smallest settlement in the interior of the West Bank, on the far side of the security barrier, one of those tiny little ones with only about 200 or 300 residents. It doesn’t have to be right away, of course – give them a year’s notice. Tell them they can move anywhere they want on this side of the security barrier – even to Gush Etzion or Ma’aleh Adumim. They can go on being settlers in Judea and Samaria!Or they can move to any of the Jewish neighborhoods in “liberated” Jerusalem – to French Hill, Ramot, Gilo. They can go live in any of the big settlement blocs close enough to the Green Line for Israel to swap for with a Palestinian state. They just can’t keep living in the heart of the West Bank because then there’s no place for Palestine.To make room for Palestine, about 100,000 settlers are going to have to go. I’m just asking for 200 or 300 as a down payment. Give them a year. Compensate them to the moon – you could take the money out of the $3 billion a year we give you. Are you worried about security? Are you afraid Iran would move in where the settlers left? Fine, keep your soldiers there, declare the place a closed military zone and only hand it over to the PA after a peace agreement is signed. You’ll have more security there with soldiers instead of civilians.One tiny settlement, 200 or 300 people, a year’s notice, and afterward it’s an IDF outpost. Bibi, what do you say?I DON’T think anyone with any understanding of Israel today has the least shadow of a doubt what Netanyahu would say. However he might put it, his answer would be no. It is unthinkable for this prime minister to remove any of the permanent West Bank settlements, even the smallest.And now we learn he’s not going to remove the makeshift settler outposts, either.Yet people say Netanyahu supports the two-state solution. What on earth is that supposed to mean? It’s crap. It’s Israeli propaganda. You have to be a Pollyanna to believe it, or even to wonder if it may be true, and Mitchell is no Pollyanna. He just pretends to think Netanyahu may come around because he couldn’t do his job otherwise.Here’s the skinny: Netanyahu would probably be willing to take down the makeshift outposts and even a few small permanent settlements if the Palestinians would drop all further demands. He’s not a religious fanatic about Judea and Samaria; he’d be ready to trade a small fraction of the land and move out a few thousand settlers in return for full peace, i.e. the Palestinians’ surrender.But he can’t even do that. His own party wouldn’t let him, not to mention the Likud’s even further-right-wing coalition partners. Ariel Sharon had the popularity, stature and determination to face down the settler movement and evacuate 8,000 Jewish residents in Gaza. Menachem Begin had the popularity, stature and determination to uproot 5,000 Jewish residents in Sinai.Binyamin Netanyahu doesn’t have the popularity, stature or determination to remove even one settler from Judea and Samaria, let alone 100,000, which he wouldn’t dream of doing even if he could.No, not only won’t he end the occupation, he won’t even stop it fromgrowing. The most he will do is slow the occupation’s growth slightly,which is what the current settlement “freeze” may, if we’re very lucky,accomplish. At best, Netanyahu will take the occupation one step backover here while taking it three steps forward over there.That’s what Israel is doing. On the ground. Every nation’s intentionscan and should be judged by its deeds. All the rest is words.
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