Categorized | Lurie_J_Zel, Middle East

Settlement freeze must be first step toward peace

By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DEL RAY BEACH, Florida — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent a couple of days in Washington, spewing half-truths about the settlements and claiming his devotion to a two-state solution despite what he tells Israelis. In Israel he says that there will not be a Palestinian state in his lifetime and that Israel will continue to live by the sword.

The statement which he repeated over and over again, and which was featured by all the media, was that he was ready to resume negotiations with Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.  No Palestinian would agree to talk to Netanyahu unless he froze all settlement construction while negotiations continue.  They would expect that the negotiations would continue until hell freezes over.  So long as the settlement construction is frozen, they would not mind fruitless negotiations.

They say we negotiated for two years under Senator George Mitchell, who was President Obama’s special envoy for the Middle East.  Then we negotiated for nine months, as requested by Secretary of State John Kerry.  None of these negotiations bore fruit for one simple reason.

No map of Jewish settlements was ever laid on the table by the Israeli negotiators, although sometimes the Israelis held a map which they would not give to the Palestinians.

This has been Israeli policy for many decades while the settlements in the West Bank grew exponentially.
The negotiators spend time negotiating an Israeli presence on the Jordan border.

They have argued for eliminating various check points. But without a map of what Israel wanted, they could get nowhere.

Among the other half-truths that Netanyahu kept repeating in Washington was that the built up settlements occupy only a tiny fraction of the West Bank, maybe a tenth of 1%. This may be true, but the delineated municipal boundaries of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank occupy 10% of the land. Another 30% is forbidden to the Palestinians by Israel army training areas, roads between Jewish settlements that are forbidden to Palestinian vehicles, and other devices.

And the Jewish settlements were strategically placed to make a contiguous Palestinian state more difficult to achieve.

As President Obama told Netanyahu at an earlier meeting a couple of years ago, the first move toward a two-state solution must be to negotiate the borders between the two states. Everyone knows this, but it is carefully hidden by the current commentators.

This essential fact which must begin serious negotiations for a permanent peace is not only ignored by Netanyahu, but by all previous governments of Israel. Many years ago, when Daniel C. Kurtzer was the American Ambassador to Israel, the Israeli government promised at a session in Washington to deliver a map of the settlements to Ambassador Kurtzer by a certain date.

No such map was ever delivered. I asked Ambassador Kurtzer what he had done about it. He said that he filed the report with the State Department.  What had the State Department done about it?  Absolutely nothing.

Of course, negotiating borders, if it is ever done would only be a first step toward peace. A real peace would need a complete change in attitudes and education by the entire populations of Israel and Palestine. It can be done. Countries and nations can reverse themselves. Compare a German today to his grandfather for a good example of a country reversing itself.

A majority of Israeli Jews today have a slightly contemptuous attitude toward the Palestinians. Here is a story from the Hebrew University which made the press.

A line of students was waiting to receive their essays and marks from a professor. “This is Arab work,” the professor shouted as he threw the essay back at its writer.  The original Hebrew, “avoda aravit” sounds more like an insult, which it was meant to be.

The next student happened to be a Palestinian, a citizen of Israel.  One out of every five Israeli citizens is a Palestinian.  The Israeli Arab demanded that the professor apologize for insulting the Arabs.  The professor refused.

A minority of Israeli Jews lives and works together with Arabs in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, and sends their children to its bilingual primary school.  There are six other bilingual schools run by Hand in Hand.
It will be even harder to change the attitude of the Palestinians on the West Bank in Gaza toward Israeli Jews whose army has ruled them and persecuted them for many decades.

The fact is that if Netanyahu ever takes the first step toward implementing a two-state solution, his coalition would break up and he might lose power, which in his mind would be a disaster.

So I don’t look with favor on American Jewish organizations passing resolutions asking for resumption of Palestine-Israeli negotiations without mentioning a freeze on settlements.

Lurie, a centenarian with long experience in Israel, is a freelance writer.  He may be contacted via [email protected]  Any comments in the space below should include the writer’s full name and city and state of residence, or city and country for non-U.S. residents.

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2 Responses to “Settlement freeze must be first step toward peace”

  1. Casriel says:

    How about a terror freeze first….

    –Catriel Silver, Beitar Illit, Israel

  2. Jerome C Liner says:

    Russia invaded Georgia and appropriated some of their territory; the world accepted that. Russia invaded the Ukraine and appropriated some of their territory; the world accepted that, also. Arabs attacked Israel, and, in the ensuing fight, Israel captures some territory. In this case the world demands that Israel give it back. Does anyone see any hypocrisy here? Israel is under no moral obligation to give anything back. If the Palestinians want land back let them negotiate, with no preconditions. Freezing settlements is a precondition. Remember, the Arabs rejected partition. Instead they attacked Israel. They have no legitimate claim to anything. In truth the Palestinians want what they could not get by force, and that is the entire State of Israel.
    –Jerome C Liner, Cincinnati, OH


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