Tempting as it is to suggest ‘lopping off’ these arms and evacuating less than 8 percent of settlers to remove one the major obstacles to a peace settlement, that would be no more than well-intentioned clutching at straws. As the author of the report himself admits, it will not meet the Palestinians’ needs, or their conditions for ending the conflict.
At best it might lead to an interim agreement, but the Palestinian people no longer have any trust in interim agreements. They have been party to several in the past 25 years, only for the “interim” to become long-term reality. For sure, they might end up with a state, borders, and seat in the General Assembly, but also with the vast majority of
settlers still living on their occupied territory, and no closure.
This proposal also ignores the history of evacuating settlements and the resistance that it has provoked. In 2005 a mere 8,000 Jewish settlers were
evacuated from Gaza and four settlements in the north of the West Bank. The process sucked the energy out of Israel’s political system, and even such a bulldozer-like prime minister as Ariel Sharon, with his strong right-wing credentials, struggled to accomplish it. To succeed today, it would take a determined leadership capable of building a strong coalition around the proposal, and one that was absolutely convinced it would serve their personal and political interests. This is not how one would portray the current Israeli leadership. The report does find that population growth in the more isolated settlements is low, which is encouraging, but these are the settlements most supported by the most vociferous elements in Israeli politics and their representatives in the legislature and around the Cabinet table. Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his tough rhetoric, is risk-averse.
Unless he is indicted and convicted on any of the corruption allegations he is being investigated for, a process that could take years, he seems to be the prime minister Israel wants, and he stands a good chance of forming a government after the next elections too. And we should not forget that he has previously demonstrated his preference for the religious and extreme right-wing parties when it comes to choosing coalition partners; when he had an opportunity to form a peace coalition with the Labor party in 2016, he got cold feet at the last minute.
Lastly, while the settlers in the big blocs are there mainly for economic reasons and on the whole have a more pragmatic nationalist approach, many of the suggested 33 settlements comprise hardcore messianic-nationalists who will not leave their homes without a fight, and may even present armed resistance. This monster created by successive Israeli governments is difficult to contain, and even more difficult to remove.
To achieve peace by removing such a small proportion of the settler population is a nice dream, but the peace camp in Israel need not fall for this type of fantasy. A genuine two-state solution would require either a substantial evacuation of settlements and settlers, or a paradigm shift to a more confederal arrangement.
(Courtesy : Arab News)