Settlements Are or Are Not Acceptable?

Settlements Are or Are Not Acceptable?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


In 2005 a commission chaired by former state prosecutor Talia Sasson and established by the Government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon found that the Government was involved in the construction of illegal outposts on the West Bank and financial misdealings related to them. Sharon even agreed to dismantle some of the illegal outposts, but it was never done.

This past January in anticipation of a Court decision which was expected to call for the dismantling and removal of Israeli outposts built on Palestinian land, the Government of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu established a commission to study the legality and legitimacy of West Bank settlements and outposts. Earlier this week, the commission chaired by retired justice Edmund Levy, reported that that Israel is not “occupying’ the West Bank and that the Government should permit settlement outposts. 

Over the past few months the Israel Courts have called for the dismantling of several settlements built on Palestinian land. Further such direction is anticipated by the courts.

The real issue is that—as is admitted by all—this is all about politics. Most Jews would agree that in existential terms the occupied territory belongs to Israel and/or the Jewish people, but religious and ideological bases do not determine realpolitik. The Netanyahu Government ought to appreciate the fact that if indeed there is a real threat from Iran it will need as much worldwide support as it can garner. It is of serious concern, therefore, that Bibi does not consider that maybe this is not the most opportune moment to continue pushing the settlement issue given the extensive opposition to them from so many different sources.  

Either Bibi believes that it is not worth throwing down the challenge to the Palestinians to start negotiations by freezing all settlement activity; or he is actually so politically nervous that he will lose his coalition on the new “Tal” law vote that he will need to make sure that he keeps the troops in line for the new elections. If, in fact, Netanyahu believes that in 2012 developing and expanding the West Bank is good policy for the State of Israel, then he may well be taking Israel in a direction where there will never be a two state solution.

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