Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli occupation Israeli settlements Middle East peace process Palestinians

Where are the “moderate” settlers?

The Israeli media are filled with dire warnings of escalating, violent resistance to the construction freeze proclaimed by Netanyahu. A recent, on-line headline in Haaretz announced: “Settlers Ready for More Clashes With Police.” Much of the buzz concerns a “Day of Rage” in two days, in which predictable passions will come to a head and no doubt there will be confrontations between determined settlers and determined Israeli security services.

But we are given a different message by a regular commentator on this blog, “Y.Ben-David.”

He is a relentlessly, passionately right wing Israeli. In the previous thread, he provided some insights that he obviously believed were alarming and tragic. If what he wrote is correct, it offers hope to those of us who yearn for the Israeli government to keep its promises to the Obama administration, and who don’t want extremist (mostly) religious hooligans to wreck a mildly promising diplomatic development.

Y.Ben-David’s money quote starts with a description of what he believes to be “the docility of most Israelis in the face of repeated betrayals by the government of policy and even the very security of their lives.” Then, he tells us:

This passivity is particularly strong among the leaders of the settlement movement…they are considered super “mamlachtim”-”statists”, patriots, good citizens, willing soldiers, Zionists. Thus when someone who supposedly had excellent credentials as a “hawk”, “patriot”, and “warrior” like Sharon told them to commit suicide, they gladly did it.

One of the most legendary religious leaders of the settlement movement came to my town a few weeks before the destruction of Gush Katif. He said “we must pray, but we can’t take any steps to stop it…no protests, no civil disobedience, nothing”. I interrupted him and said “we are not just trying to save Gush Katif, we are trying to save the IDF and the country….rockets will reign down on us if we leave..this is not just a struggle for ‘the settlements’ it is a struggle for the very future of the state”. He was so stuck in his archaic views of things he couldn’t understand what I was saying.

Thanks for the unintended glimmer of hope, Yaacov. It is similar to the one provided by Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kirshner in the New York Times in an article (9/16/2009) discussed elsewhere on this blog. I previously noted:

They talked to the hard core ideologues, the people whom I’ve always believed would not be removed without a fight, whose implicit and explicit threats of violent resistance would make any Israeli government reluctant to take them on in order to fulfill the terms of an agreement. It turns out that while many will resist in some fashion [as happened in Gush Katif], only a small minority were likely to fight pitched battles against Israeli soldiers.

There is almost no doubt that the hotheads and “hill youth” will get the majority of media attention in the next few days. But there are more moderate, mature settler leaders who, for all of their angst and anger at Netanyahu’s “betrayal,” understand that ongoing, violent clashes with the army ultimately will jeopardize the state of Israel, a country that still gets their loyalty. I’ve met a few of them, over the years. Will they publicly draw the line against violent resistance? When push comes to shove (or, even better, before push comes to shove), will they try to turn down the temperature and try to enable the rule of law to prevail in the Wild Wild West of the territories? It’s not out of the question.

10 thoughts on “Where are the “moderate” settlers?

  1. Dan, I have told you repeatedly that for a “true peace” in which the Palestinians gave up the “right of return”, any Israeli gov’t in power would be forced to agree to a complete withdrawal to the pre-67 lines, including giving up the Kotel but with some sort of assurances that the Palestinians would allow continued prayer there (which would, of course, not be honored). This is because the “Establishment”, through use of the police, courts, prosecutors office and, most importantly, the organs of propaganda of the regime would go all out to paint anyone who opposed such a “Messianic peace” as a traitor, a terrorist, an enemy of the people, etc, and this would legitimize the use of force, even lethal force against opponents of such a withdrawal. But short of an Arab offer like this, they can’t go so far.
    So I am not sure what “hope” I am giving you. But this scenario is not the one Netanyahu is going to play out. The Palestinians want Israel to give them a state without giving anything in return (security assurances, open borders, continued access to Jewish holy places). Sharon and now Netanyahu have agreed to granting the Palestinians a state unilaterally. The question is now will the settlers leave quietly for that, knowing that the inevitable results will be more terrorism , more rockets and a continued deterioration in Israel’s position in the world

    Recall what Sharon promised in return for getting a complete fold up of the settlers. He told the settler leaders:
    (1) This is the last withdrawal. There will be no more. We are giving up Gush Katif in return for saving the rest of the Judea/Samaria settlements, (even though he destroyed 4 Samaria settlements in the process)

    (2) This withdrawal will strengthen the “moderates” of FATAH and will weaken HAMAS

    (3) He told Sharansky that Israel will be so popular after knocking down Gush Katif that there will be no more pressure on Israel from the world to give up more territory for at least 10 years

    (4) Should rockets be fired from Gaza, Israel will have carte blanche to use maximum force against Gaza. (What does Goldstone think of this?)

    Sharon was outright lying about the first promise, when he set up Kadima a few months later he made a basic plank of the party platform another large-scale withdrawal.

    Regarding the other promises, he was either lying or incredibly stupid. Even Peres and other Labor party and Kadima people now say the destruction of Gush Katif was a “mistake”.
    But the settler leaders went along with him because of the hero-worship with which people in this camp looked at Generals, even though it had been decades since Israeli Generals carried out any successful wars or major operations.

    Times have changed since Gush Katif. Amona and the massive violence Olmert employed there against passive resistors, mostly kids, embittered many people, particularly the young.
    Any promises Netanyahu will give will be looked on as phony, since we heard them all before. Netanyahu and the Likud “hawks” who capitulated (Begin and Ya’alon) won’t even say why the freeze is even in Israel’s interest. Netanyahu is not hero-worshipped like Sharon was. The “legendary leader” of the early days of the settlement movement who did much to demoralize the opposition to the Gush Katif destruction has pretty much dropped out of sight. We are seeing spreading protests by soldiers who are told to fight Jews in the outposts rather than the enemy.
    The council leader of Beit Aryeh who protested the freeze was beaten up by the police and arrested was a known secular moderate who opposed the “extremism” of the YESHA Council up until now. If someone like him is being radicalized that could mean something.

    Whether the changes I have indicated mean that there will be a much more militant approach to opposing the gov’t than there was at Gush Katif remains to be seen.

  2. The media predicted that the right would be much more ideologically and physically resistant in the West Bank than in Gaza. Gaza was never part of Greater Israel at any point in any assessment of history, except after 1967.

    I’m not hopeful.

    I think someone should convey Yakov’s “offer” to remove the settlers (or have them become law-abiding Palestinian citizens) if the PA drops the right of return.

    From that offer, Palestine can then compromise to allow some of the settlements and likely the Kotel to be part of Israel, and Israel can compromise to allow living 1948 refugees to return to Israel.

    Then, the whole issue can be solved, by consent.

    Most likely, if the parties are allowed to talk, they’ll get there.

    I think Netanyahu is more sympathetic to the settlers presence there. I’m surprised to hear Yakov speak of Sharon as traitor, as Sharon was the instrumental organizer of the official settlement effort when Begin initiated and Shamir kicked it into high gear.

    The later expansion during labor and kadima was acceleration on an open road. Sharon’s work was driving through traffic to get to the open road.

    Its a problem of memory. Thats what happens when the young predominate, those without memory of history. A traditional society is supposed to be built on inter-generational memory.

    Also, gush katif as “non-violent” resisters. Hot oil, boiling water on soldiers as “non-violent”.

  3. Also,
    It occurred to me that within Israel’s parliamentary system, Netanyahu’s hands are tied. There is no bold action that is possible without a swing in public opinion.

    One irony of the Yesha proposed demostrations, is that that is the kind of “resistance” that could describe/imprint the Yesha efforts as a liability for Israel, widely known, later to be assumed and Yesha further dismissed as anti-Israeli.

  4. Richard-
    I know someone who was on the roof at Kfar Darom and it is a LIE that “boiling water” or anything dangerous was dumped on the soldiers. I know this kid, he is a sweet fellow, very pious and would never hurt a fly. The others there were friends of his. They were all beaten up by the police after they were removed from there. He is very bitter.
    There was virtually NO resistance whatsoever to the IDF that destroyed Gush Katif. It was thought there would be road blockings or mass demonstrations around the country when it started. THERE WAS N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Got it? The “legendary leader” and other leaders of the settlement movement worked assiduously to demoralize the anti-withdawal forces and it worked wonderfully.

    Sharon was not, strictly speaking, a traitor. He was a man of no principles. He flip-flopped between right and left during the 1970’s. Although he was a key figure in forming the Likud before the 1973 elections, he left shortly after being elected to the Knesset and joined Rabin’s gov’t as an adivsor and he supported Rabin. He ran in the 1977 elections as a far Leftist in the Shlomzion party-he invited Yossi Sarid and Amos Keinan to join the party and he promised to recognize Arafat and work to set up a Palestinian state(!). However, when the Likud won in 1977, he quickly reversed gears, joined the Likud and became the big supporter of the settlement movement.
    As I see it, the destruction of Gush Katif was divine punishment for the Right supporting Sharon’s disastrous Lebanon war in 1982. On that issue, I agree 100% with Yossi Sarid who said Sharon was a dangerous man. Simha Ehlich of the Likud warned Begin that if he appointed Sharon as Defense Minister (in 1982-Begin wanted him to be the one to destroy the Yamit settlements since the “right” loved him) he would destroy him, which is what happened. However, Lebanon, Sabra and Shatilla was all forgiven by the Left when he destroyed Gush Katif.

    Now it seems Netanyahu will try the same game. That is what Ari Shavit reported in Ha’aretz.

  5. Further on the “hot oil, boiling water” myth-tell me Richard, do you believe every report you hear in the media in the US? Do you believe everything the government of the US says? If you don’t, then you don’t have any basis for believing everything the media in Israel either. The “progressives” don’t believe the denials of the IDF regarding the Goldstone accusations. So why should the IDF and other governmental organs be more truthful when they are conducting a war against the settlers if by lying they can mobilize public support for what they are doing?

    BTW-Richard-I see “Clif” over at MONDOWEISS called you a “pathological liar”. I don’t see Phil doing any censoring of antisemitic propaganda or other such abominations. Yet Dan, who unlike many other “progressives” does act like a civilized person, insists on keeping a link to them. It seems many Jewish “progressives” like Phil and MJ Rosenberg feel more at home with Nazis, Arab terrorists and other antisemites than they do with other Jews. I guess this is good, the fact that J-Street invited the likes of Silverstein, Phil Weiss and others of the same ilk will only discredit that supposedly “pro-Israel” organization.

  6. Sorry for so many postings, but here is an important article by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley showing why both the one state and two state solutions can’t work. They call for a return to the pre-1948 mindset and to see if the Palestinians can recognize any Jewish state and the Jews accept the “Palestinian historical experience”. Frankly, I don’t understand what they are talking about, but they do explain well why the one state and two state solutions are a dead end:

  7. As I’ve stated a few dozen times, I believe that the Palestinians are making efforts towards viability and peace, in the form of institution-building, establishment and implementation of the rule of law in areas of their current and prospective jurisdiction.

    And, that features of the form of occupation in the West Bank, hinder short and long-term developments towards that end. That they are undertaking such unified and integrated institution-building efforts while confronting significant obstacles (some necessary and some unnecessary) speaks for their determination, and will yeild them a more resilient and respectable structure.

    The spin to dismiss those efforts, their existence and their importance, is disheartening. It indicates more than a sincere doubt, but extends into cynical opportunism, lusts.

    You are innaccurate about the Gaza settlements “non-violence”, as you are wrong about the West Bank settlers “non-violence” (did you say that they were non-violent?). In Gaza, there were threats of semi-violent resistance, but most relied on the promise of subsidized return to Israel. Only a few “remained at all costs”.

    MORE in the West Bank cry “over my dead body” than in Gaza. Much more.

    The reason that the Gaza withdrawal turned out so badly was at least partially, due to Israeli actions. Rather than coordinate the withdrawal with the PA, thereby ensuring PA administrative order, Israel left the settlements to anarchy, and then got the “order” that follows anarchy.

    I still hope that someone conveys your offer to the PA and other Palestinians, so that some real progress may occur.

    I ignore what I am called at Mondoweiss. I’ve gotten enough very encouraging e-mails and even personal comments for the tack that I try to take there, which is to argue the merits of my reasoning and proposal.

    There are a couple individuals that shadow me there. It reminds me of my role as mediocre hockey center on my high school team. When we played a good team, my role was to closely shadow the opponent’s best player, NOT try to score ourselves, but only shadow key players to keep the opponent from any daylight. It is irritating, and in hockey it was effective.

  8. The Agha Malley article was insightful.

    I believe that a two-state approach that addresses Palestinian history and need, and Israeli history and need, is possible.

    Borders – resolvable
    Aid and compensation – resolvable
    Law – resolvable

  9. Does anybody here think Palestinians will give up right of return?

    A huge part of the problem is that they won’t. But we’ve been through this roundy round conversation before…

    One thing I’ve gotten from Dan’s commentary on the old time settlers (the one’s who purportedly started this whole territorial meshugaz, right?)–is that you can’t broadsweep them with a brush. Suddenly they’re looking more multi-dimensional as we make way for the next right wing culprit. 🙂

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