Peres won’t try to stop “natural settlement growth;” Will Obama?

Eventually, Obama and his team may well press the Israeli government to make hard decisions on the West Bank settlements, presumably as part of a comprehensive diplomatic plan in which each side will need to sacrifice cherished principles and stop habitual behavior. We got an inkling of Israel’s predictable but disturbing response to a key question in a report from Ron Kampeas of the JTA:

In his speech Tuesday, Biden made clear that the Obama administration expected Israel not to build new settlements. It is also the U.S. expectation that Israel inhibit “natural” settlement growth, or new building within existing settlements.

Peres told reporters afterward that he told Biden that “Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married.”.

Jeffry Mallow, former President of the Labor Zionist Alliance (now Ameinu), doesn’t buy this logic. In an outraged email, he wrote: “This is disingenuous, discriminatory, hypocritical, and dangerous. Palestinians are regularly denied permits to build homes as their families increase in size. More generally, countries have zoning ordinances. Here in the US, one cannot automatically build new houses or extensions to existing houses. Certainly one cannot automatically increase the size of one’s property as one’s family increases, nor pile an indefinite number of family members into an existing structure. To my knowledge, the same is true in Israel proper. Only the settlers get special treatment.”

This is a great point. In my book, former Foreign Israeli Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami notes, “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the possibility of peace without agony was missed long ago. From now on nobody can spare the parties their Calvary.”

The settlers keep getting spared their Calvary, over and over and over again. In many respects, they are treated like spoiled children who are constantly placated by their parents. It’s time for the grownups to take over.


28 thoughts on “Peres won’t try to stop “natural settlement growth;” Will Obama?

  1. Interesting how both you and Ben-Ami use a Christian allusion to refer to expelling Jews from their homeland.

  2. Jeffry Mallow’s comments are total nonsense, which seems to be what much of the comments by the “progressive” crowd regarding “the settlements” are. Mallow seems to be claiming that “settlers” can build whatever they want and whenever they want which is ridiculous…they are FAR more restricted than Arabs in Judea/Samaria who really face no restrictions. In other words, the situation is the exact opposite of what Mallow says. The Jews in Judea/Samaria do not receive and “special treatment”. Israel has laws regarding building and they are particularly restrictive in Judea/Samaria, primarily for political reasons. It is true that Arabs can not build without restriction in Jerusalem, just like the Jews can’t.

    The endless falsehoods and half-truths I see “progressives” who call themselves “Zionists” repeating over and over regarding the settlers and settlements is really deserving of an extensive research project. How people who call themselves “Zionists” and who still think the people who built the first Kibbutzim like Deganya are heroes, can so easily turn around and work themselves into a rage about Jewish settlement in Judea/Samaria is beyond me. It requires a psychological explanation which I have stated in the past….it must be a transference of guilt. A realization that “progressive, universalist” values are essentially incompatible with Jewish nationalism and Zionism (“tribalism, particularlism, parochialism”, etc). Thus to get rid of their own guilt feelings for being hypocrites they turn their wrath on the Jews of Judea/Samaria, many of whom are religious which also brands them as “the other”, “the enemy” as many old-time Labor Zionists viewed them.
    As I have said before, I have no problem with someone who says that “yes, we do have a right to settle Judea/Samaria/Gaza, just like we settled the Galil, the Shefela, the Negev, etc, but for practical reasons we should not insist on implementing them at the present time”, but to call them “immoral” is just not in tune with Zionist thinking.

  3. If they have perfected title (not contested, but consented), then they should have the right to build settlements.

    Otherwise, they are stealing.

    Title to land in the West Bank can NOT originate by decree or based on a transfer of Jordanian state land to Israeli.

    If that is the basis of title, then that is false.

  4. My cousins live in a moshav near the Kinneret and would love to have their grown children live there too but the moshav has filled up its housing space and can’t expand for “natural growth”. I live in DC and would love to have my grown children live near me but I can’t build on the National Park across the street from me to house them. Only in the West Bank does “natural growth” mean that expansion is unhindered.

  5. Well put, Judy. I also can’t start building houses a few miles from the edge of my town in Pennsylvania and call it a “neighborhood,” instead of a new town.

  6. Yaakov wrote: “As I have said before, I have no problem with someone who says that “yes, we do have a right to settle Judea/Samaria/Gaza, just like we settled the Galil, the Shefela, the Negev, etc, but for practical reasons we should not insist on implementing them at the present time”

    So in this scenario, what happens to the Arabs living in these areas?

    Just wondering what the big picture is.

  7. Richard-
    Tel Aviv Univesity is sitting on the land of the Arab village of Sheikh Munis. They have obtained no legal title to the land from the Arabs who owned the land. Those Arabs either fled or forced off. The Knesset is sitting on land that belonged to the Arab village of Sheikh Bader. The Knesset received no legal title to the land from the Arabs who owned it. The Arabs either fled or were forced off it. Same with the land the city of Ashkelon is sitting on, same with the land Ashdod is sitting on, same with the land Yafo (Jaffa) is sitting. Do you want me to go on?

    Judy-Don’t you know how to read. I said explicitly that it is NOT true that “West Bank settlements have the right to expand unhindered”. That is UNTRUE. Got it?

  8. YBD:
    So is a Zionist one who believes that Israel should settle anywhere in the Land of Israel? I guess Olmert isn’t a Zionist, because he withdrew the army from southern Lebanon. And Ben-Gurion who withdrew from Gaza in 1957 and then urged his successor to withdraw from the territories in 1967. Isn’t it immoral to endanger the chance for peace by attempting to implement a right?

  9. Dan:
    Since this is a blog devoted to Israel, shouldn’t the reference be to golgatha rather than calvary? Or are you a Latin school grad rather than a yeshiva bocher?

  10. Looks like the Obama Administration is indeed following in the path of Carter’s, i.e. push away your friends and appease your enemies.

    By tying American policy towards Iran’s nuclear threat to “progress” with the Palestinians, he is leaving the Gulf States open to Iranian threats, since there is no chance of there being a peace agreement with the Palestinians. No one knows this better than the Arabs states who don’t trust Iran.

    In any event, I think there is one positive aspect to Obama pushing Israel away…Israel has developed an unhealthy dependency on America. Under “best friends” like Clinton and Bush, the Oslo and Gush Katif fiascos were pushed on Israel and Sharon kept delaying action to stop the suicide bomber threat by saying “I gave Bush my word”, or “the Americans won’t like it”, as if “Sharon’s word to Bush” is more important than the lives of Israelis.

  11. If the lands that you referred are on sites that have contested title, then they should be perfected, by compensation preferably.

    Its a dilemma to state, “we function by the rule of law”, except….

  12. Richard-
    My point is that much of pre-1967 Israel is on what you call “contested title”. That is the whole argument of the Palestinians in their insistence on the “Right of Return” and that doesn’t only mean compensation.

  13. But, you are arguing that the title questions ALSO are irrelevant, and shouldn’t be applied within Israel or in the West Bank.

    If you wish to affirm Israel’s character, then affirming the rule of law, consistently applied, is a way to affirm Israeli sovereignty and integrity.

    There is eminent domain, but the law of eminent domain implies due process, including appeal, for those whose property rights are revised, and market value (fair) compensation for any property taken.

    It doesn’t matter what the basis of that title is, whether by residence, purchase, prior eminent domain.

    Title does NOT shift from a status of contested to consented without due process under a system that itself is consented and trusted.

    The rule of law is THAT important.

  14. That article on birthrate demographics was interesting.

    Yaakov–you haven’t said as much–but do I sense you favor absorption of “Palestinian” territories into Israel proper? With an integrated Arab minority?

    If that’s what you’re saying, it’s not much different from what some on the far Left propose. Although they probably favor reparations from now until the next ice age. 🙂

    On the other hand, you and I probably agree that the Arabs have different aspirations.

    So I’m not clear on the end goal here. I haven’t been to Israel and I don’t understand all the intricacies.

  15. Suzanne-
    Given that a contractual peace is not possible, what will evolve eventually in Judea/Samaria is a Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian condominium. In fact it is slowly evolving now. Israeli settlements are restricted to certain areas as defined by the Oslo Agreements but they will continue to exist and grow in those areas. A Palestinian Authority will continue to exist to govern the Palestinians. Israel will maintain overall security control which eventually (and it will take time, the current circumstances do not allow it) but its will be drawn down to a minimum with the roadblocks being removed and free movement of the Palestinians being restored. This was the situation before “peace” broke out with Oslo in 1993 and destroyed everything. If the Palestinians and Jordanians want, they can form some type of federation. In fact, Jordanian influence has been growing for some time. However, this arrangement will have to be informal because the Arab side could never formally agree to it. This will happend when it is seen the Islamic radicalism is in retreat, and we have not reached that situation yet. There is no doubt it will collapse just like Nasserite Pan-Arabism which excited the whole Arab world in the late 1950’s and then which collapsed after 1967. This will be when the Arab/Muslim masses see that radical Islam is leading to dead end and can not address the political, social and economic problems of the people (Pan-Arabism did make an attempt to deal with these problems and failed, Islamism only says “Islam is the solution”).
    Thus, Jews in Judea/Samaria will remain Israelis and the Arabs will be governed by either the Palestinian Authority and possibly also by the Jordanian regime.

    This is what will eventually evolve. More and more people now realize the “2-state solution” is dead and that the Arabs will never accept the “soulution everyone knows the terms of” which is something like the Clinton Parameters. Thus, reality on the ground will evolve once people realize this is the best situation that can be hoped for.

  16. Radical Islam is not an answer to anything.

    But, expanding settlements is also not an answer to anything. They will not stand the consent test, as they require eminent domain takings but for entirely private purposes.

    A contractual peace is certainly possible, but also certainly impossible if Israel boycotts the effort.

    The factors that construct a contractual peace are in the works, with the Arab League proposal, with the revisions being proposed by Abbas and Abdullah.

    Oslo was a moving forward. Revisionism and terror are steps back.

  17. Yakov,
    Your description of the “best”, is nearly identical in form to apartheid, with the sole exception of direct association with Jordan, which would require a revolution there.

    Not a desirable path to my understanding.

  18. Witty,
    You seem to have an obsession with “perfect title”. I’m not sure I understand. Within the 67 borders about 90% of the land became state land through either the absentee property law, the use of Ottoman land law, or seizures. As I understand it, in Israel only for land appropriated through seizures is the owner compensated. Are you saying that most of this land doesn’t have a perfect title? You say that

    “Title does NOT shift from a status of contested to consented without due process under a system that itself is consented and trusted.”

    Consented and trusted by who? The majority? Do you think Israeli courts are biased?

    I assume you believe that Israeli’s have the right to live in the West Bank and Gaza in the same way that they have the right to live in 67. But I don’t see a difference in the way that most of the land Israeli Jews live on was acquired.

  19. Peculiar:

    Since this is a blog devoted to Israel, shouldn’t the reference be to golgatha rather than calvary? Or are you a Latin school grad rather than a yeshiva bocher?

    As far as I know the term golgatha or calvery’s only difference is that one is a a Greek the other the Latin translation. But more important here, Dan cites Shlomo Ben-Ami, who obviously seems to feel that even if one is Jewish one can use the term in a figurative sense:

    In my book, former Foreign Israeli Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami notes, “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the possibility of peace without agony was missed long ago. From now on nobody can spare the parties their Calvary.”

    What’s wrong with that?

  20. Thanks, LeanDer. Apparently in the minds of some people. a Jewish writer is limited to Jewish imagery, and terms that are now universal symbols are tref. This is a form of parochialism that I had not encountered before.

  21. LeanDer-
    As someone who has seen your postings for some time, I am surprised you would ask this question.
    For Dan, Shlomo Ben-Ami and othe “progressives” Jewish “parochialism” is considered primitive and they do everything they can to show that they are “universalists” and part of world culture (how they can reconcile this while still claiming to be “Zionists” causes them to adopt many weird, contradictory positions which I have written about previously). This makes them insensitive to Jewish thinking and tradition. “Calvary” of course, to me and many Jews, reminds us of how the Christians blame the Jews collectively for killing Jesus, thus making it “understandable” that we have suffered so much at their hands for 2000 years. Thus, it is in a sad way logical that Jews who are very uncomfortable with their Jewish identity would then use antisemitic symbols in their writings, as if showing, albeit unconciously, their non-Jewish fellow “progressives” – “you see, I am not one of THEM, I am okay, don’t associate me with THEM”.

    A similar manifestation of this syndrome was the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that Peres, Rabin and Arafat participated. The tradition in the ceremony is that the recipient give his acceptance speech in his native language. Arafat, gave his in Arabic. Peres and Rabin gave theirs in English, indicating to the world, as Post-Zionists, that not only do they not consider themselves Jews, they are embarrassed to even be considered Israelis. As a follow-on, when Peres lost the 1996 election to Netanyahu, he was asked the meaning of the results. He replied “the Jews defeated the Israelis”.

  22. Here is a comment critical of J-Street written by an Israeli left-wing commentator, whom I almost always disagree with:

    I find it amusing how Ben-Ami blames American Jewish assimilation on Israel. There is no doubt in my mind now….J-Street will be soon perceived by most Jews in Israel and the US as an anti-Israel organization in the tradition of the “American Council for Judaism” that tries to improve its PR by claiming to be “pro-Israel” while engaging in Israel-bashing propaganda and lobbying. I am encouraged that a true Zionist like Forman who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me is honest enough to see the truth.

  23. In times of war, self-inquiry is not considered a virtue.

    And, fascist states (right and left) adhere to permanent states of war as their means of retaining power.

    Humane states must struggle to remember that their current enemy is human, and if war is successful in resolving dispute, will end up as friend in some fashion.

    The shock and awe approach is sometimes the least violent one, in that conflicts are then short, definitive, resolved.

    The shock and awe approach, applied where there is not likely any prospect of short and definitive resolution, is an ODD (to the point of self-destructive) way of conducting relations.

    I don’t see how Israel will transform from “fortress Israel” to “a light among the nations” by its current approach.

    Especially, if the status quo is regarded as the most just, most definitive outcome as Yakov advocates.

    Do you see how that transition could occur, realistically?

  24. Richard,
    Yes, I do see how the transition could occur. We have already seen the collapse of Nasserite Pan-Arabism. In the late 1950’s it seemed to be the wave of the future. He was not only a hero in the Arab world, but in the whole nascent Third World movement. He even convinced Syria to merge with Egypt. In 1967 he managed to get military cooperation in an alliance against Israel, even with countries that hated his guts, like Jordan. Shortly after, it went up in smoke.

    We also have seen the bloodless collapse of the Soviet empire.
    Today, the Arab/Muslim world is being swept by political Islamist extremism. It is very dangerous and has claimed a lot of innocent victims. However, the Islamists are badly split. The Sunni heartland (Egypt, the Gulf Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Sunnis of Lebanon etc) are terrified of the Persian/Shi’ite resergence. The Shi’ite spiritual leader in Iraq, as I understand it, does not approve of the Shi’ite political activism of the Iranians, and supports the traditional “Quietest” approach of Shi’ism which disdains the world of politics, thinking that it is defiled. However, there is no doubt that religious observance throughout the Muslim world is on the rise.
    The Saudis and their Wahabi form of “fundamentalist” Islam is spreading rapidly based on the Saudis vast wealth which they are using to support this movement. However, until a few decades ago, the vast majority of Muslims, both Sunni and Shia viewed Wahabism as an abberation, a heresy.
    I am not an expert on Islam, but I think the views of Melanie Phillips, Bat Ye’or and others who fear the emergence of “Eurabia” are exaggerated in the long term. I see the seed of self-destruction in their behavior. That is not to say that they can’t sow a lot of death and destruction in the meantime, but they have no future. What are they offering the people? Gan Eden. What about the economy and society of the here and now? Communism, although it turned out that it was the greatest fraud in history, at least claimed they had a path to national development and a solution to the social problems developing countries faced. Nasserite Pan-Arabism and its cousin Ba’athism which was an amalgamation of Fascism/Nazism and Marxism also claimed to offer the same thing. They failed, also. All the officially “secular” Arab states, such as Egypt, Syria and Algeria are stagnant, iron-fisted dictatorships. Political Islam says “Islam is the solution”. But what have they actually delivered? Iran is an Islamic state for 30 years now. Has the country moved ahead economically and socially, or not? (I know this oil-rich country has to import refined gasoline).

    That is why I repeat that Israel must show “tsumud” (an Arabic word meaning steadfastness) and hold on until the time that the Arab/Muslim world sees that political Islam is a dead end. After that happens, the problems of the Palestinians can be solved in a spirit of good will without the Jews having to compromise on their national rights.
    Take Cyprus as an example. Turkey invaded the country (after provocations by the Greek Cypriots). They took over 40% of the island and expelled thousands of Greek Cypriots from their homes. What did they Greek Cypriots do? Did they put the refugees in camps and indoctrinate them to wreak vengeance on the Turks? No. They decided to develop their part of the island and to make money. There are no Greek Cypriot suicide bombers attacking Turks. They sought at better way. There has not been a political settlement there yet, but the human suffering caused by the Turkish invasion was ended and so a solution may come, but even if there isn’t the people are prospering. Once political Islamism is defeated, I believe the same thing will come to the Arab world.

  25. How is one to distinguish your version of “waiting” (and gradually annexing), from the prior version of waiting (and gradually annexing) during the pan-Arab emphasis that you referred earlier?

    I spent the weekend at a Lubavitch yeshiva, visiting my son. They also held the view that the land was Israel, and that giving up an inch of Eretz Yisroel amounted to a great and fundamental compromise.

    I was a small minority in the room, and only spoke to our moral obligation to treat others righteously, not cynically, not opportunistically.

    On shabbat in a yeshiva, some of the bochers amplified a “blessing” to be steadfast, with “bomb them”.

    My wife and I told my son that our family does NOT adopt that attitude, that we affirm that Palestinians are human beings and deserve to be treated with the respect that human beings deserve. Further, that he would be making a choice to assertively dishonor us by joining in that voice in any way.

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