A PALESTINIAN VIEW
by Ghassan Khatib
The Israeli settlements and the Israeli settlement expansion process in the occupied Palestinian territories have been and will continue to be the most problematic aspect of the conflict and the greatest obstacle to making peace, even when the two sides are ready for that.
The settlements are built for "security" or ideological purposes. In either case, the settlements themselves are a security burden that requires either further expansions or further security measures. These, in turn, only further inflame the conflict and spark confrontations.
The best illustration is Israel's separation wall. To protect settlements on occupied Palestinian land, Israel has built a wall that in some places veers deep into Palestinian territory. Securing this wall, in turn, requires closures of additional areas and other measures of restrictions on the Palestinian population. Israeli officials justify the building of this wall as a measure aimed at maintaining the security of Israel; in fact, it is built to secure illegally built settlements on occupied land. Had there been no settlements, that wall could have been built on international borders and would not have added more fuel to the fires of the conflict.
Since the illegal Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem in 1967, the most frequent causes of the many confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians have been clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli occupation forces during the confiscation of Palestinian land for the creation and expansion of settlements, and the continuing aggressive behavior of settlers against the local population.
Even Palestinian economic difficulties can be attributed to the expansion of these Jewish colonies. The settlements have taken good agricultural land, interrupted the movement of people and goods and the contiguity of territory, and are built over vital water reservoirs.
Israeli propaganda often tries to mix cause with effect by claiming that much of what the Israeli army does is for the protection of settlers. In fact, it is the presence of the settlers and the expansion of settlements that are the major causes of insecurity for both sides.
Needless to say, the continued construction and especially the recent arbitrary expansions of these illegal settlements are killing any Palestinian hope for a possible peace based on independence and the establishment of a viable state. This fading hope, in turn, is the cause of desperation as well as violence and confrontation.
Even during the best years of the peace process, there was a fundamental lack of trust engendered in the Palestinian population as it became clear that negotiations had no effect on the continuing expansion of settlements. The settlements are the most glaring symbol of the occupation. Their expansion constitutes a consolidation of this occupation, and Palestinians were led to believe that the peace process was about ending the occupation. Thus, one of the reasons Palestinians are unable to look optimistically at the possible Israeli evacuation of settlements in Gaza is that this unilateral Israeli plan is being accompanied by dramatic settlement expansion in more than 95 percent of the rest of the occupied territories, namely the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
Occupation and settlement expansions are incompatible with peace and instead foster enmity, hostility and hatred. Only when Israel stops at least the expansion of settlements, will Palestinians see any cause for optimism regarding possible future peaceful relations between the two sides.- Published 1/8/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of planning and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
A cost-benefit balance sheet
by Yossi Alpher
Enhancing Israeli security was one of the reasons most settlements were established. The settlements have failed completely in this regard and have instead become a major focus of violence. The settlements also threaten Israel's demographic security. Nevertheless, in a few places settlements appear likely to help determine more secure borders for Israel. Moreover, perversely, without the threat to Palestinian territorial security posed by the settlements it is not at all certain the PLO would ever have come to the negotiating table. In the context of this security discussion the legality of the settlements is not a primary issue.
The most obvious confirmation of the settlements' failure to provide security is the intended Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. The Katif Bloc settlements in the southern Strip were supposed to constitute a buffer separating Palestinians from Egyptians under the Allon Plan of 1968, and to help fend off an Egyptian offensive along the coast against Tel Aviv. Now Israel has not only acknowledged the futility of those objectives, but it is inviting additional Egyptian forces into demilitarized Sinai to help deal with terrorism. Ganim and Kadim, two of the settlements about to be evacuated from the northern West Bank, were placed on the outskirts of Jenin to "separate" it from Israel. Now a much more efficient security fence separates Jenin from Israel.
Not surprisingly, it is the most provocative and dangerous Israeli settlements from a security standpoint--the isolated ones placed deep inside Palestinian population concentrations--that also constitute the biggest demographic security threat to Israel's ongoing existence as a Jewish and democratic state. Here we return to the Katif settlements, where the presence of some 7,000 settlers has threatened to embrace Israel in a population interlock with 1.3 million Palestinians. But we can also point to several dozen settlements, with a few tens of thousands of inhabitants, that dot the West Bank mountain ridge from Nablus to Hebron and threaten to create a similar interlock with some two million Palestinians. In this sense, the settlements' biggest drawback from an Israeli security standpoint is the demographic friction they generate at the strategic level.
By the same token, the settlements placed in blocs just across the green line in the West Bank appear to be the most logical in demographic, water and tactical security terms. Most final status maps endorsed by Palestinians recognize that the blocs will be annexed to Israel, both because they have changed the local demography by force of numbers and because they expand Israel's borders where its territory is dangerously narrow, for example along the coastal strip or the Jerusalem corridor. Given the likelihood of a demilitarized Palestinian state, however, along with the absence of a military threat from the east, even the need to expand Israel's "narrow waist" with settlements is no longer obvious. Indeed, some Israeli strategic thinkers from the right and center would now rather turn Israeli Arab villages near the green line over to Palestine, thereby narrowing that waist even further, in order to attain the more attractive security goal of improving the internal Israeli demographic balance.
Violence by Palestinians against Israelis will almost certainly continue after the advent of a two-state solution, just as it existed prior to 1967. Some Palestinians, and their radical Arab and Iranian supporters, will consider the solution inadequate regarding refugees or Jerusalem, or simply because Israel continues to exist. Many Israelis on the left and center who thought that occupation and settlements were the only reason for Palestinian violence were forced to confront this proposition when, in the course of recent years, suicide bombers targeted towns and cities deep inside Israel far more frequently than they targeted settlements across the green line. This explains today's demand to remove isolated settlements, which clearly are a focus of violence, while building a security fence to at least reduce Palestinian violence inside Israel.
Did the spread of settlements, particularly in the West Bank, constitute a factor in the PLO's decision in 1988 to negotiate a two-state solution--in the sense that, if Palestinians waited much longer there would be little left to negotiate? This is an intriguing theory that could, in a sense, justify the construction of settlements retrospectively at the strategic level. But by the same token, the more the settlements continue to spread today in the West Bank, the more moderate Palestinians are beginning to argue that they will soon preclude any possibility of separating the two peoples into two separate states. The day that viewpoint again becomes official PLO policy, the settlements will indeed cease to be a main focus of violence because, thanks to them, the green line will no longer function as a border and Palestinian violence will be directed indiscriminately at all Israelis.
In this context, some opponents of disengagement argue that the West Bank mountain heartland settlements, as an expression of the right of the Jewish people to live in the cradle of biblical Hebrew civilization, are worth any security price. From a national Jewish standpoint, this can only be termed a suicidal approach.- Published 1/8/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies and a former senior adviser to PM Ehud Barak.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
With settlers, no peace
by Issa Samandar
Israeli strategists are not mistaken in identifying the settlement project as an intrinsic component in defining the territory of the Jewish state. Historical precedents, from the 1947 UN Partition Plan through to the "Clinton Parameters" of December 2000, have reinforced their belief that by manifesting a presence--no matter how small or how unjustly--on Palestinian land, eventual sovereignty is achieved, recognized and rendered irreversible.
The "tool" of settlement building, rather than that of diplomacy, is in fact Israel's first choice in creating, preserving and expanding a sovereign presence. As such, its seemingly extraordinary cost--in terms of political "awkwardness" as well as financial investment--is readily justified.
In the two years following the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles, the Rabin government presided over West Bank land confiscations averaging 220 dunums a day and totaling 170 square km. Although the current rate is less steep, the expansion has continued. The territory that today falls under settlement control is nearly half the total West Bank area.
By June 2002, the terms denoting areas A, B, and C, as outlined in the Oslo Accords, no longer referred to anything other than a historical geopolitical map. New territorial divisions in the West Bank have taken shape and follow distinctive patterns. Checkpoints now confine the non-Jewish population to immediate built-up areas; beyond those, settler and Israeli military exclusivity reigns. In many cases this effectively confines villages of 6-7,000 inhabitants to land areas of less than 10 percent of their ownership and places the remaining 90 percent within the military remit of the settlers and the Israeli army. In doing so, the exclusion policy need not rely on the legally tiresome and slow methods of expropriation, and so leaves little by way of a paper trail and affords total deniability in the unlikely event of some international objection being raised.
Settlements in the larger blocs (where over 77 percent of settlers reside) are now effectively being annexed to Israel with bypass roads, checkpoints and military installations forcibly preventing Palestinians from accessing these areas. Meanwhile, outposts (79 percent of all settlements with only 10 percent of all settlers) are being openly adopted as a primary tool of political and military strategy, in what is an effort to further dismember all remaining Palestinian land.
There are today at least 214 individual illegal settlements in the West Bank and a further 21 in the Gaza Strip. Of a total of 398,000 settlers (the exact figure is higher due to uncounted outpost dwellers), 197,000-200,000 reside in occupied East Jerusalem, nearly 9,000 in the Gaza Strip and the remaining 192,000 in the West Bank beyond Jerusalem. Seventy-nine percent of all settlement sites are either unpopulated (e.g. industrial zones) or home to under 1,000 settlers.
All Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, which holds that the transfer of a civilian population into or out of occupied territory is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967), 446 (1979), 452 (1979) and 465 (1980) all call upon the Israeli government to cease and desist from any settlement activity.
Since 1967, the international community has consistently voiced its disapproval and even condemnation of the Israeli settlement activity. However, with such statements amounting to little more than lip-service to international law and human rights, illegal settlement building has continued apace. Members of the international community and especially representatives of its primary political powers, bear a responsibility for the upholding of ratified international law, for the upholding of human rights, and for the application of all due pressure on fellow members who are willfully in breach of these standards. The damage wrought by Israel's ongoing settlement activity stands as testimony to the failure of concerned parties to thus far properly meet those responsibilities.
The pretext of providing "security" to the tiny percentage of Israeli citizens living in small and remote outposts (0.8 percent of the population), is being exploited apace in a race to fragment, by use of settlements and bypass roads, the geographical remnants of Palestine, reducing it to a series of smaller and smaller cantons, each with its economy, transport and communications externally controlled by Israel.
Adding Israel's separation wall to all these both secret or clearly stated and public plans for settlement expansion and land appropriation, Palestinians have only one route to go: to fight for their land rights. Palestinian land rights on Palestinian land amount to an existential struggle. The non-violent activities organized by grassroots committees working against the wall have proven that there is an alternative way of doing this. But Israeli policies have not changed, and even non-violent demonstrations are not tolerated.
And all number crunching aside, let me also provide an example of what the settler presence physically means to Palestinians. This is not the most egregious example. It is not an example of the many fatalities Palestinians have suffered, either from being shot from settlements, beaten to death by settlers, or the many wounded and maimed trying to reap their harvests. It is not an example of the losses to the Palestinian economy, such as it is, or of the health or psychological impact of being confined and imprisoned in towns or villages with no freedom of movement. It is simply the latest incident, conveyed to me as I write this article.
On July 31, settlers from the Sa Nur settlement (incidentally one of four West Bank settlements slated to be dismantled as part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral "disengagement" plan) prevented villagers from an area village from burying one of their dead. The dead man had to be returned to a hospital morgue. No reason or cause was stated.
Israeli human right organizations have issued numerous reports on the debilitating effects of the existence of settlements and the violence of settlers' behavior toward Palestinians. One doesn't have to dig deep for information on this subject. But the fact that Israel has not only gone unpunished, but has been actively encouraged and directly financed in its illegal policy of settlement and dispossession, casts real doubts on the willingness of leaders of the international community and its various diplomatic, legal and economic bodies to live up to their duties.
If the policy of settlement expansions and settlement building is not reversed, it will eventually lead to another phase of violence. This is no outrageous prophecy; the writing is on the wall. We know the settlers too well. They will do their utmost, using whatever means needed, to cement their presence and harm Palestinians.
But again, make no mistake: Palestinians are closer to another intifada against these fanatical thieves than ever. Palestinians have the right to be free on their own land without the existence of any manifestation or symbol of the Israeli occupation. The settlers have to leave our country and, accompanied by their army, go back to Israel. With settlers there will be no peace.- Published 1/8/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Issa Samandar is the director of the Land Defense General Committees, a grassroots NGO that seeks to advise people whose lands are either out of bounds to them or confiscated because of settlements and outposts, how to fight back through legal means and peaceful, political, direct action methods.
AN ISRAELI VIEW|
The settlements are not the reason for violence
by Yaakov Amidror
Neither the Israeli victory in the 1967 war nor even Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria constitutes the reason for Palestinian violence and terrorism. Terror began prior to the 1967 war, long before the settlements. As early as 1929 the Palestinians began to fight the Jews in the Land of Israel in an organized fashion.
In 1947, the United Nations decided to establish two states between the sea and the Jordan River, one for the Arabs and the other for the Jews. The Palestinians rejected this compromise and went to war, at the conclusion of which the borders of the Jewish state were fixed--what are commonly called the 1967 borders. Those borders mark the place where the IDF and the Arab armies ceased firing at one another.
In 1967, another war broke out between the State of Israel and its neighbors, one that ended with the IDF sitting on the banks of the Jordan River and controlling the West Bank, which had been a part of the kingdom of Jordan. The UN Security Council called on Israel to withdraw to "secure borders", thereby launching a debate, which continues to this day, as to whether Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders or withdraw from only part of the territories to a line that fits the definition of a secure border.
For Israel, a country the size of Kuwait, a secure border is a vital necessity. Over the past four years Israel learned just how hard it is to defend civilian population centers that are proximate to the departure points of terrorists wearing explosive belts. The term "secure borders" has taken on stronger significance as a lesson drawn from this war against terrorism.
After Israel's calls for negotiations had been turned down by the Arab states during the late 1960s, Israelis began establishing new settlements in the areas under IDF control. There were two principal reasons for this departure. The first was the need to configure new borders for the State of Israel that could be critical for its capacity to defend itself. Three main areas were settled with a defensive purpose in mind: Jerusalem, the capital, and the narrow corridor leading to it from the Latrun region; the western hilltops of Judea and Samaria that dominate Israel's strategic and civilian center from Beersheva in the south to Afula in the north; and the Jordan Valley and the ridge controlling it from the west (the Alon Road area), from Jericho in the south to Ein al-Beida in the north.
A second reason for the settlements was the desire to fulfill the Jews' historic right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel. Return to the Land of Israel was understood by many Jews as a religious obligation that must be realized wherever possible.
It cannot be argued that the source of violence and terrorism is the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza or settlement there, when Fateh itself carried out terrorist operations inside the State of Israel beginning in 1965, two years before the war. Anyone reading the words of Gamal Abd al-Nasser or Yasser Arafat before 1967 grasps immediately that in their view it was justifiable to eliminate Israel before it had established a single settlement in the West Bank and Gaza. Even today, terrorism from Gaza continues, though Israel has announced that it is about to withdraw all settlements and all army units from there.
The bitter truth is that a considerable number of Palestinians seek to destroy the State of Israel. The possibility that the settlements do indeed create a situation in which Israel's borders will be more secure, reflecting the UN Security Council's decision, is a nightmare for those who still dream of destroying the Jewish state. All the rest is public relations excuses.
In the Middle East reality there is no symmetry between Israel and the Arab countries. The Palestinians, for example, have but one enemy, while Israel is alone in the region with few friends and many enemies, thereby explaining its sensitivity to its security needs. Indeed, the Palestinian people's Arab brothers each have a state; a Palestinian state will be number 23. In contrast, the Jewish nation has but one state, Israel. In order better to defend that state, settlements were established in areas vital for its defense. That cannot justify Palestinian violence against Israel.- Published 1/8/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror was head of the Assessment and Production Division of IDF Intelligence, military secretary to the Minister of Defense, and head of the National Defense College. He is currently vice president of an academic think tank in Jerusalem.
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