NJA Op-Ed: Settlements – A Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone to Peace?

The following op-ed was written by NJA Press and Marketing Manager Heath Sloane and published by the Jewish Weekly on March 3, 2023.

Settlements: A Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone to Peace?

The town of Huwara has become the unfortunate site of violence between both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. After two Israeli civilians who drove into the Arab village were shot dead, Israeli vigilantes from nearby communities destroyed Palestinian property and one Palestinian was killed. The murder of innocent civilians on both sides is to be condemned unequivocally.

The recent spate of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting the Israeli government to punitively grant retroactive authorisation to nine “settlements” and announce expansion in Judea and Samaria earlier this month. Israel faced criticism from the UK, USA, France, Germany, and Italy in response.

According to a joint statement, the signatories oppose actions “which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”

The full statement erroneously mischaracterises settlements as a towering roadblock to peace. The settlements in Judea and Samaria have never precluded a peace deal. Long before settlement began in earnest, the Arabs repeatedly rejected sovereignty. They rejected the 1937 Peel Commission & the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan and continued their intransigence even immediately after 1967’s Six-Day War.

Conversely, the height of settlement construction also saw the most significant breakthroughs towards peace with Camp David (2000), Taba (2001), and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer to President Mahmoud Abbas (2008). The existence of settlements has been grossly inflated as an obstruction to peace.

Strangely, despite Area C of Judea and Samaria being completely under Israeli civil and security control in accordance with the Oslo Accords, the countries that issued the statement seem to have no issue with the widespread illegal Palestinian settlement activity there with support and funding from Europe. Only Israeli settlements seem deserving of their rebuke.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, which is yet to broker peace, Israeli settlement growth may actually represent a constructive step by pressuring the Palestinian leadership to resume peace negotiations, lest Israel exacts a real cost for their obstinacy.

Whilst these attacks are presented as isolated incidents, it belies the fact that they are a part of a larger pattern of Palestinian aggression driven by Islamic extremism and underwritten by the so-called “Pay to Slay” programme administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Expanding Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria in response to these attacks would deny a political win to Hamas and Fatah – the incumbent terrorist government in Gaza and the terror-supporting administration in Ramallah respectively. This strategy would assure these factions that using terror will not only fail to extract concessions from Israel, but will correspondingly minimise their sphere of influence, operation, and control. As an added bonus, it would provide homes for Israeli families and unleash the economic potential of the land.

The UK and cosignatories of the statement would do well to re-evaluate their knee-jerk condemnation of settlements as a stumbling block to peace, and instead appreciate their potential as a stepping stone towards a lasting solution. For its part, Israel should continue this policy to send an unambiguous message to its foes: the more you try to kill us, the more we will build.

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