Palestinians should realize Israel willing to withdraw for peace, settlements or none
By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO — It’s not hard to agree that the settlement movement in Israel—a hybrid of indigenous religious zealots and immigrant fundamentalists from places like Chicago, Toronto, and Johannesburg—is something of a complication for the peace process. This is true even though the overwhelming majority of Israelis—people making car payments, trying to keep their jobs, and maintain their health benefits—are neither settlers, would-be settlers, or even particularly observant Jews.
The Palestinian obsession with the settlements is peculiar and out-of-touch with a) the far more urgent issue of salvaging their own state (deserved) from a smoldering splinter of terror groups and ostensibly more “moderate” factions that remain in bloody stalemate among each other (primarily Hamas v. Fatah) and b) the more cogent realization that to ask Israel to stop building communities when you haven’t even offered to stop destroying communities is absurd and disingenuous.
The Palestinians, with their funny caveats, and the Obama imposers, with their tongue-clucking demands that Israel “take risks for peace” (as if every single day since Israel was created in 1948 has not been a risk) don’t seem to grasp the bigger picture: Israel is about life and growth and science and creativity.
Over 80% of the nation consists of secularists who watch cable news, shop in trendy malls, love to linger in fashionable coffee shops, drive late-model cars across a national freeway system, and like to travel to Turkey, India, Hong Kong, and North America. They want college, not conflagration.
Indeed, the vast majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, advocate for a secure peace with the Palestinians, and would love to see their children and grandchildren not be committed to another generation of terrorism and bloodshed. To subvert that possible audience when you are, like the Palestinians, truly running out of options, and when your own Arab family of nations has just let you wither in the sand for six decades, is unfortunate at best, reckless at worst.
Israel has already demonstrated in Sinai and elsewhere that it will even employ its own army to remove settlers and their homes from territories previously acquired after Arab incursions on the chance that this heartbreaking action (for the deployed soldiers and the citizens involved) might bring peace. Israel has returned land five times its own size; the Arab side has so far not returned a single inch in this ongoing discussion.
Israel is expected to divide its capital with a fledging national entity that is divided between two bases, one completely violent and the other famously corrupt.
Get past the settlements, Palestinians. Israel—your only hope for statehood—has already demonstrated its ability to negotiate even the most painful scenarios. Why not demonstrate some courage in return?
Rabbi Kamin is based in San Diego