Why West Bank Settlements Must Stop

"He wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth' exceptions," Secretary Clinton announced  on behalf of President Obama during her recent press-conference in Egypt. "That is our position. That is what we have communicated [to Israeli government] very clearly."

Why no Israeli settlement activity should be allowed? Because Palestinians want that land for their future state, we are being told. To continue settlement activity, we are being told further, would pre-judge the results of future negotiations.

All of which is fine and good, except for the fact that Israelis are not the only ones who build on the disputed land to accommodate for ‘natural growth,' thus "pre-judging" the outcome of diplomacy. Palestinians do, too -- and the Obama administration, to be fair or at least consistent in its concern that "facts on the ground" should not adversely affect final-status negotiations, should put equal pressure on the Palestinians to stop all their building in the West Bank, too -- for when the Palestinians build in the West Bank, they also create "facts on the ground," erecting their structures on the land which Israelis may want to be part of their state. Is it only legitimate for the Palestinians to want certain part of the disputed territory to belong to them? Is it illegitimate for the Israelis to want the same disputed land to be theirs?

That simply doesn't make any sense, and our new and determined President should show his impartiality by pressuring both sides into avoiding steps that would pre-judge the results of future negotiations. If Jews' normal lives in the West Bank impede fair solution of the conflict by pre-judging the outcome of negotiations, it is only fair to remind ourselves that Palestinians' normal lives do so, too.  

Because the West Bank is a disputed territory, not the land intrinsically belonging to the Palestinians but currently occupied by the Israelis. It is worth repeating yet again that before the West Bank was "occupied" by the Israelis in 1967 when they beat off the Arab aggression, it was under Jordanian occupation that started in 1948, and that prior to that it was occupied by the British who had the mandate to do so from the League of Nations; and that prior to that it was part of the Ottoman Empire. "Palestinian state" never existed, and cannot claim any territory as legitimately its own.

This is not to say that it is unnatural of the Palestinians to want West Bank to be their own -- but exactly the same is true of the Israelis, too. After all, when Arabs arrived in the area in 634 AD, they came as conquerors, as builders of an empire that eventually spread from the borders of France to those of India -- and would have spread much farther had not Charles Martel checked Arab expansion into the Western Europe by crushing their invasion into France, and Byzantine emperor Leo the Isurian checking their advance into Asia Minor and Central Europe. The land we call "Palestine" today was in possession of others for many millennia before the Arabs invaded -- not least, it was a Jewish country for over fifteen centuries as Judea and Samaria, with Jerusalem as its capital. Jews have a legitimate title to that land by any measure -- and are perfectly entitled to seeing Palestinian Arabs as illegitimate settlers on the Jewish land.

Well, having a legitimate title is one thing, but being cognizant of the "facts on the ground," the fact of heavy Arab presence in the West bank is another -- and time and again, the Israelis were willing to negotiate, compromise, share the land. Somehow, this willingness got translated into a bizarre notion that the West Bank is Arab by right, and that the only solution to the conflict is for the Israelis to withdraw. "Illegal Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian land which prevent the solution of Arab-Israeli conflict" became an integral part of the political discourse. Hence, the desire to remove those "barriers to peace," stifling their growth as demanded by President Obama through Secretary Clinton being the first step in that process.

But, Mr. President, the factual premise of your demand is simply wrong. In fact, there are two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, building in the disputed West bank. If you do indeed believe that creating "facts on the ground" in the West bank is an obstacle to negotiated peace, than indeed demand the end to all settlement activity in that disputed land until negotiations resolve the entire dispute - and the word "all" means that Palestinian settlement activity in the West bank, "natural growth" including, must be stopped, too.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly." His blog is at rootoutterrorism.com
"He wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth' exceptions," Secretary Clinton announced  on behalf of President Obama during her recent press-conference in Egypt. "That is our position. That is what we have communicated [to Israeli government] very clearly."

Why no Israeli settlement activity should be allowed? Because Palestinians want that land for their future state, we are being told. To continue settlement activity, we are being told further, would pre-judge the results of future negotiations.

All of which is fine and good, except for the fact that Israelis are not the only ones who build on the disputed land to accommodate for ‘natural growth,' thus "pre-judging" the outcome of diplomacy. Palestinians do, too -- and the Obama administration, to be fair or at least consistent in its concern that "facts on the ground" should not adversely affect final-status negotiations, should put equal pressure on the Palestinians to stop all their building in the West Bank, too -- for when the Palestinians build in the West Bank, they also create "facts on the ground," erecting their structures on the land which Israelis may want to be part of their state. Is it only legitimate for the Palestinians to want certain part of the disputed territory to belong to them? Is it illegitimate for the Israelis to want the same disputed land to be theirs?

That simply doesn't make any sense, and our new and determined President should show his impartiality by pressuring both sides into avoiding steps that would pre-judge the results of future negotiations. If Jews' normal lives in the West Bank impede fair solution of the conflict by pre-judging the outcome of negotiations, it is only fair to remind ourselves that Palestinians' normal lives do so, too.  

Because the West Bank is a disputed territory, not the land intrinsically belonging to the Palestinians but currently occupied by the Israelis. It is worth repeating yet again that before the West Bank was "occupied" by the Israelis in 1967 when they beat off the Arab aggression, it was under Jordanian occupation that started in 1948, and that prior to that it was occupied by the British who had the mandate to do so from the League of Nations; and that prior to that it was part of the Ottoman Empire. "Palestinian state" never existed, and cannot claim any territory as legitimately its own.

This is not to say that it is unnatural of the Palestinians to want West Bank to be their own -- but exactly the same is true of the Israelis, too. After all, when Arabs arrived in the area in 634 AD, they came as conquerors, as builders of an empire that eventually spread from the borders of France to those of India -- and would have spread much farther had not Charles Martel checked Arab expansion into the Western Europe by crushing their invasion into France, and Byzantine emperor Leo the Isurian checking their advance into Asia Minor and Central Europe. The land we call "Palestine" today was in possession of others for many millennia before the Arabs invaded -- not least, it was a Jewish country for over fifteen centuries as Judea and Samaria, with Jerusalem as its capital. Jews have a legitimate title to that land by any measure -- and are perfectly entitled to seeing Palestinian Arabs as illegitimate settlers on the Jewish land.

Well, having a legitimate title is one thing, but being cognizant of the "facts on the ground," the fact of heavy Arab presence in the West bank is another -- and time and again, the Israelis were willing to negotiate, compromise, share the land. Somehow, this willingness got translated into a bizarre notion that the West Bank is Arab by right, and that the only solution to the conflict is for the Israelis to withdraw. "Illegal Israeli settlements on the occupied Palestinian land which prevent the solution of Arab-Israeli conflict" became an integral part of the political discourse. Hence, the desire to remove those "barriers to peace," stifling their growth as demanded by President Obama through Secretary Clinton being the first step in that process.

But, Mr. President, the factual premise of your demand is simply wrong. In fact, there are two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, building in the disputed West bank. If you do indeed believe that creating "facts on the ground" in the West bank is an obstacle to negotiated peace, than indeed demand the end to all settlement activity in that disputed land until negotiations resolve the entire dispute - and the word "all" means that Palestinian settlement activity in the West bank, "natural growth" including, must be stopped, too.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly." His blog is at rootoutterrorism.com