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“Settlements” Are Not The Problem

Willem Hart

It is truly astounding that the issue of “settlements” – a politically loaded term used for Israeli residential planning and development in ancestral Judea and Samaria – has dominated the discussion on Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

With the recent United Nations condemnation of said settlements, and Obama’s refusal to veto such a childish resolution, the ubiquity of “settlements” as part of the conversation is now more apparent than ever, with many (including supporters of Israel) viewing this resolution with apathy or even approval, rather than as what it truly is: an ugly double standard applied to Israel.

History tells us that according to pre-Israel Zionist leaders, the Israeli sovereignty of Judea and Samaria are not requisite for a final peace agreement with a future Palestinian State. Back before Israel was even founded, the Jewish Agency for Palestine agreed to the UN Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947 (181). In addition to the Gaza Strip and a large piece of the Negev, the Partition Plan allotted the Arab state complete control over Judea and Samaria. There was to be no Israeli sovereignty there. This plan not only saw absolutely no Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, but Jerusalem would be in a special UN-controlled space, completely surrounded by the Arab state that would be. The Israelis would be potentially completely cut off from the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

And they said yes. The plan was endorsed by the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Emphatically. They wanted peace, and they knew it would only come with a concrete plan for two sovereign states.

The Arab League rejected it, adamantly and unwaveringly demanding that no part of the disputed territory be Israeli. Anything other than a contiguous majority Arab state would be accepted.

War broke out, Israel won, handily, and Israel’s independence was declared in 1948. The “Palestinians,” a term that from then on went to describe Arabs within this territory, consigned themselves to a state of national limbo within the 1949 Armistice Lines, which included Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

This is just one instance where the Jewish people of Israel were willing to make the excruciating sacrifices required for a potential peace agreement. Militarily indefensible borders, drastically less land than what was promised in the original British Mandate for Palestine, and essentially exile from all of Jerusalem. And obviously no presence in Judea and Samaria.

The Jewish Agency was fine, in fact, ecstatic with this deal. Knowing now that the Palestinians would always choose rejections, terrorism and war over having a state next to Israel, Israel would probably not have accepted this agreement in hindsight. But it’s a testament to the fact that we did at one point resign ourselves to an agreement, to an Israel bereft of any “settlements” in Judea and Samaria.

Settlements were not the issue and they continue not to be to this very day. The problem is the existence, even just the very idea, of a sovereign Jewish state in their indigenous homeland. Otherwise the Arabs would have accepted the Partition Plan (which mandated economic cooperation between the two states) and moved on.

“Settlements” and the bizarre obsession with condemning Jewish settlement in ancestral Judea distracts from the real problem. The real impediments to peace are terrorism, indoctrinated hatred of Jews and Israel, and radical Islam, which will likely never be condemned by a UN Security Council.

And that is the double standard here. The Jews have offered so much land, endured waves of brutal terror, war after war after war, and yet the international community expects nothing from the Palestinians. Whether this be the product of the subtle racism or lower expectations or general corruption at the UN, this is indeed a double standard, and antisemitism.

But history doesn’t stop being history because it doesn’t fit an anti-Israel narrative, which is exactly what these diatribe resolutions against “settlements” are. Only until the Palestinians are willing to make the same excruciating sacrifices for peace, such as recognizing Israel and renouncing hate, will they ever have a state side by side with their Jewish neighbours, whatever that eventual agreement may look like.

Willem Hart is currently finishing up an undergraduate degree at York University and has been involved in Israel advocacy and education through Hasbara at York. He is also an alumni of the StandWithUs Canada Emerson Fellowship.