Friday, May 20, 2011

The Irrelevance of the Settlements

Cross currents Jonathan Rosenblum

Given all the attention focused on Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines (known colloquially and erroneously as the 1967 borders), one would never know how irrelevant they are to Israeli withdrawal from land captured in 1967. From his first day in office, President Obama seized on the settlements as the crucial issue in Palestinian-Israel peace process, as a means of signaling to the larger Muslim world that they have a friend in the White House. In so doing, he only succeeded in hardening Palestinian positions and convincing them that there was no need to negotiate with Israel because the United States will pressure Israel into withdrawal to the “1967 borders” with minor adjustments.

For many American Jews too, the settlements have taken on a role far out of proportion to any actual impact on peace. The settlements allow American Jews to indulge their Jewish guilt over the failure to achieve peace and to engage in a particularly Jewish form of hubris – the feeling that everything depends on us and that if were only better, more magnanimous, peace would be at hand.

No Israeli government will ever be able to evacuate a quarter of a million Jews from their homes beyond the 1949 armistice lines and an almost equal number from homes in new neighborhoods of so-called east Jerusalem without provoking a civil war. But even if there were not a single settlement, Israel could not return to the 1967 lines. That is a point that cannot be sufficiently emphasized.

NO MILITARY EXPERT considered Israel’s pre-1967 borders capable of being defended. Israel’s coastal plain, in which over 80% of its industrial capacity and 70% of its population is located, is no more than 15 miles wide and it narrows to as little as nine miles. No less crucial is Israel’s topographical vulnerability. Much of the central mountain range running through Judea and Samaria is over 3,000 feet about sea level, and thus overlooks the cities along the coastal plane. Not only is the entire coastal plane exposed, but so is Ben Gurion Airport and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.[...]

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