How Israelis See the Settlements

(Wall Street Journal) Yossi Klein Halevi - Unlike critics abroad, who denounce settlements as illegal under international law, mainstream Israeli discourse takes for granted the legitimacy of Israel's claims to the West Bank - lands where the Jewish people find their deepest historical roots, won in a war of self-defense against the Arab world's attempt to destroy the Jewish state. The debate, instead, is over the wisdom of implementing these claims to the "territories." The mainstream Israeli left no longer promises "land for peace." This shift recognizes that, after years of terrorism and Palestinian rejection of past Israeli peace offers, the Israeli public has become deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions. According to an October 2016 poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute's Peace Index, nearly 65% of Israelis backed peace talks - but only 26% thought they would succeed. Israelis worry that a Palestinian state would be overtaken by the radical Islamist Hamas movement and would threaten Israeli population centers with rocket attacks - precisely what happened in 2005 when Israel uprooted its 21 settlements in Gaza and withdrew. Palestinian media regularly ignore any distinction between Israel's boundaries before and after the 1967 war, labeling coastal cities such as Tel Aviv and Ashkelon as settlements too. For Israelis, the refusal of Palestinians to come to terms with Israel's legitimacy is proof that the conflict isn't about settlements, but about the very existence of a Jewish state. Israelis across the political spectrum regard building in Jerusalem as a category separate from the West Bank. For Israelis, the international community's discourse over Jerusalem seems delusional. About 300,000 Israelis live in a dozen Jerusalem neighborhoods built after the Six-Day War. For almost all Israelis, these Jewish neighborhoods are just that: neighborhoods, not settlements. I live in a post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhood called French Hill. Not once have I heard any neighbor doubt the status of French Hill as part of the State of Israel. In recent years, growing numbers of Arab Israelis have moved into the neighborhood. But for the UN, French Hill residents - including its Arab Israeli residents - are "settlers." The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

2017-02-06 00:00:00

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