I continue to be flabbergasted at how easily so many liberal Jewish supporters of Israel have allowed themselves to be suckered by the Israeli settlement issue. These so-called "settlers," a word which itself has become a pejorative, are merely Jews living in the place that Jews originally came from. They have set up communities in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as they would say, for various reasons. Some do so out of a religious commitment to the land of ancient Israel... Eretz Israel. Others live there because housing is less expensive than in Israel proper. And now we are told that the mere presence of Jews living in the West Bank undermines the peace process.
I personally do not care whether Jews live there or not. I am not in favor of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Nor do I oppose Jewish settlements in the West Bank. For that matter, I also do not oppose Episcopalians living in Skokie, Illinois, nor Rastafarians living in Kathmandu, Nepal, nor Ethiopians living in Walla Walla, Washington. What we are being told, though, is that Jews living, and thus building, in the West Bank is an impediment to the peace process. This is nonsense. How can the mere presence of Jews in the West Bank prevent Mahmoud Abbas from sitting across the table from Benjamin Netanyahu? All they need to do is agree on Israel's final borders, and thus the borders of the forthcoming Palestinian state, and then those Jews who live in the newly formed state of Palestine will be living under Palestinian rule. Presumably many will leave under those conditions because, or so I guess, most would prefer not to live under Palestinian sovereignty. But should that not be up to them?
Why must any future state of Palestine be Judenrein? Israel does not demand that their Palestinian population pack up and move out, yet not only does Abbas and the PA insist upon the dismantling of Jewish settlements in their areas of jurisdiction, but even liberal American Jews do so. This is not only a form of unjust bigotry, it is, itself, an impediment to the peace process. Let me be clear. It is not Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are an impediment to the peace process, but the insistence that Jews must not be allowed to live, and thus build, in the West Bank that is the impediment to the peace process.
What many people refuse to recognize is that when Barack Obama demanded a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank he threw any possible negotiated agreement out the window. By demanding something that Netanyahu either would not, or could not, give he assured that Mahmoud Abbas could demand nothing less. In this way Obama tossed a monkey wrench into the works right from the beginning. And what's worse is that he continues to do so because now he is demanding an extension of the freeze.
This is a sucker's game.
If the Palestinians want a state next to Israel all they need to do is accept a state next to Israel. Yet they perpetually refuse and the blame is always laid at Jewish feet. Time and again, decade after decade, the Palestinians are offered state-hood and time and again, decade after decade, they refuse those offers. They always have some alleged reason, of course. None of the offers are ever considered good enough. This time around they are refusing because Jews are living in the West Bank. In other words, they are telling the world that out of ethno-religious bigotry against Jews they cannot negotiate a peace agreement. And what is most remarkable about this is that many, many western liberal Jews find this not unreasonable.
I find it not only unreasonable, but absolutely ridiculous. Of course, you really cannot blame Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership. So long as well-meaning westerners, including many Jews, affirm Palestinian intransigence and racism against Jews as consistent with liberal values, than why should Abbas accept a Jewish presence in any future state of Palestine? In this way the issue becomes a ploy by which the Palestinian leadership can avoid an end to the conflict. It's a stupid and dangerous game that no one can win, but it is a game that Barack Obama has set up, himself, and as soon as he put the pieces in place, American Jews started playing, as well.