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by Mitchell Bard – – A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, THE JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY
“Israeli settlements are illegal.”
Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—since ancient times.
The only time Jews have been prohibited from living in the territories in recent decades was during Jordan’s rule from 1948 to 1967.
Numerous legal authorities dispute the charge that settlements are “illegal.”
Stephen Schwebel, formerly President of the International Court of Justice, notes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself.
Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory.
According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank.
The resolution, Rostow noted, “Israel is entitled to administer the territories” it won in 1967 until ‘‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’’ is achieved.
Though critical of Israeli policy, the United States does not consider settlements illegal.
“Settlements are an obstacle to peace.”
Settlements have never been an obstacle to peace.
From 1949–67, when Jews were forbidden to live on the West Bank, the Arabs refused to make peace with Israel.
From 1967–77, the Labor Party established only a few strategic settlements in the territories, yet the Arabs were unwilling to negotiate peace with Israel.
In 1977, months after a Likud government committed to greater settlement activity took power, Egyptian President Sadat went to Jerusalem and later signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Incidentally, Israeli settlements existed in the Sinai and those were removed as part of the agreement with Egypt.
One year later, Israel froze settlement building for three months, hoping the gesture would entice other Arabs to join the Camp David peace process, but none would.
In 1994, Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel and settlements were not an issue; if anything, the number of Jews living in the territories was growing.
Between June 1992 and June 1996, under Labor-led governments, the Jewish population in the territories grew by approximately 50 percent.
This rapid growth did not prevent the Palestinians from signing the Oslo accords in September 1993 or the Oslo 2 agreement in September 1995.
In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to dismantle dozens of settlements, but the Palestinians still would not agree to end the conflict.
In August 2005, Israel evacuated all of the settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in Northern Samaria, but terror attacks continued.
In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, but the deal was rejected.
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze settlement construction for 10 months and the Palestinians refused to engage in negotiations until the period was nearly over.
After agreeing to talk, they walked out when Netanyahu refused to prolong the freeze.
Settlement activity may be a stimulus to peace because it forced the Palestinians and other Arabs to reconsider the view that time is on their side.
References are frequently made in Arabic writings to how long it took to expel the Crusaders and how it might take a similar length of time to do the same to the Zionists.
The growth in the Jewish population in the territories forced the Arabs to question this tenet.
“The Palestinians now realize,” said Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, “that time is now on the side of Israel, which can build settlements and create facts, and that the only way out of this dilemma is face-to-face negotiations.”
Even though settlements are not an obstacle to peace, many Israelis still have concerns about the expansion of settlements. Some consider them provocative, others worry that the settlers are particularly vulnerable, and note they have been targets of repeated Palestinian terrorist attacks.
To defend them, large numbers of soldiers are deployed who would otherwise be training and preparing for a possible future conflict with an Arab army.
Some Israelis also object to the amount of money that goes to communities beyond the Green Line, and special subsidies that have been provided to make housing there more affordable.
Still others feel the settlers are providing a first line of defense and developing land that rightfully belongs to Israel.
The disposition of settlements is a matter for the final status negotiations.
The question of where the final border will be between Israel and a Palestinian entity will likely be influenced by the distribution of these Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria (the border with Gaza was unofficially defined following Israel’s withdrawal).
Israel wants to incorporate as many settlers as possible within its borders while the Palestinians want to expel all Jews from the territory they control.
If Israel withdraws toward the 1949 armistice line unilaterally, or as part of a political settlement, many settlers will face one or more options: remain in the territories (the disengagement from Gaza suggests this may not be possible), expulsion from their homes, or voluntary resettlement in Israel (with financial compensation).
The impediment to peace is not the existence of Jewish communities in the disputed territories, it is the Palestinians’ unwillingness to accept a state next to Israel instead of one replacing Israel.
“The Geneva Convention prohibits the construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territories.”
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war.
The intention was to insure that local populations who came under occupation would not be forced to move.
This is in no way relevant to the settlement issue.
Jews are not being forced to go to the West Bank; on the contrary, they are voluntarily moving back to places where they, or their ancestors, once lived before being expelled by others.
In addition, those territories never legally belonged to either Jordan or Egypt, and certainly not to the Palestinians, who were never the sovereign authority in any part of Palestine.
“The Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there,” according to Professor Eugene Rostow, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
As a matter of policy, moreover, Israel does not requisition private land for the establishment of settlements.
Housing construction is allowed on private land only after determining that no private rights will be violated.
The settlements also do not displace Arabs living in the territories.
The media sometimes gives the impression that for every Jew who moves to the West Bank, several hundred Palestinians are forced to leave.
The truth is that the vast majority of settlements have been built in uninhabited areas and even the handful established in or near Arab towns did not force any Palestinians to leave.
“The size of the Jewish population in the West Bank precludes any territorial compromise.”
Altogether, built-up settlement area is less than two percent of the disputed territories.
An estimated 70 percent of the settlers live in what are in effect suburbs of major Israeli cities such as Jerusalem.
These are areas that virtually the entire Jewish population believes Israel must retain to ensure its security, and presidents Clinton and Bush anticipated would remain under permanent Israeli sovereignty.
Strategic concerns have led both Labor and Likud governments to establish settlements.
The objective is to secure a Jewish majority in key strategic regions of the West Bank, such as the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor, the scene of heavy fighting in several Arab-Israeli wars.
Still, when Arab-Israeli peace talks began in late 1991, more than 80 percent of the West Bank contained no settlements or only sparsely populated ones.
Today, approximately 300,000 Jews live in 122 communities in the West Bank.
The overwhelming majority of these settlements have fewer than 1,000 citizens, 40 percent have fewer than 500 and several have only a few dozen residents.
Contrary to Palestinian-inspired hysteria about settlement expansion, the truth is only five settlements have been built since 1990.
Analysts have noted that 70–80 percent of the Jews could be brought within Israel’s borders with minor modifications of the “Green Line.”
Ironically, while Palestinians complain about settlements, an estimated 35,000 work in them and support a population of more than 200,000.
“At Camp David, Begin promised to halt the construction of settlements for five years.”
The five-year period agreed to at Camp David was the time allotted to Palestinian self-government in the territories.
The Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlements agreed to by Prime Minister Menachem Begin was only for three months.
Israel’s position on the matter received support from an unexpected source: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who said: “We agreed to put a freeze on the establishment of settlements for the coming three months, the time necessary in our estimation for signing the peace treaty.”
The Palestinians rejected the Camp David Accords and therefore the provisions related to them were never implemented.
Had they accepted the terms offered by Begin, it is very likely the self-governing authority would have developed long before now into an independent Palestinian state.
“If settlement-building is now concentrated in areas that the Palestinians themselves acknowledge will remain part of Israel in any future peace agreement, why the obsessive focus on settlements as an ‘obstacle to peace?’ ”
— Yossi Klein Halevi
“Israel must dismantle all the settlements or peace is impossible.”
When serious negotiations begin over the final status of the West Bank, battle lines will be drawn over which settlements should be incorporated into Israel, and which must be evacuated.
In August 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon acknowledged that “not all the settlements that are today in Judea and Samaria will remain Israeli” while leaked Palestinian negotiating documents indicate the Palestinians are prepared to accept that some settlements will be incorporated into Israel.
In Gaza, Israel’s intent was to withdraw completely, and no settlements were viewed as vital to Israel for economic, security, or demographic reasons.
The situation in the West Bank is completely different because Jews have strong historic and religious connections to the area stretching back centuries.
Moreover, the West Bank is an area with strategic significance because of its proximity to Israel’s heartland and the fact that roughly one-quarter of Israel’s water resources are located there.
The disengagement from Gaza involved only 21 settlements and approximately 8,500 Jews; more than 100 settlements with a population of roughly 300,000 are located in Judea and Samaria.
Any new evacuation from the West Bank will involve another gut-wrenching decision that most settlers and their supporters will oppose with even greater ferocity than the Gaza disengagement. Most Israelis, however, favor withdrawing from all but the largest communities.
Over two-thirds of the Jews in the West Bank live in five settlement “blocs” that are all near the 1967 border.
Most Israelis believe these blocs should become part of Israel when final borders are drawn.
ISRAELI ARABS – – STATUS OF ARABS IN ISRAEL
By Mitchell Bard:
Roughly 21% of Israel’s more than eight million citizens are Arabs.
The vast majority of the Israeli Arabs – 81% – are Muslims.
Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote.
Arabs currently hold ten seats in the Knesset.
Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel.
At the time of Israel’s founding, only one Arab high school was operating, today, there are hundreds of Arab schools.
Most Arabs attend these schools.
The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army.
This was to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren.
Nevertheless, many Arabs have volunteered for military duty and the Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the draft.
Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military.
Veterans qualify for many benefits and jobs not available to non-veterans.
Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process.
On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage obtaining some jobs during the years Israelis are in the military.
In addition, industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated by Israeli Arabs.
While there is no institutional segregation, Jews and Arabs have chosen to live separately in all but a handful of cities.
Israelis all recognize that Arab villages have historically received less funding than Jewish areas and this has affected the quality of Arab schools, infrastructure and social services.
Arabs are also underrepresented in higher education and most industries.
Israeli Jews and Arabs have surprisingly little contact with each other.
Most young people study at different elementary and secondary schools and may not come into contact with one another until college; by then, many preconceived opinions have been formed.
This lack of interaction exacerbates tensions between the two communities.
Israeli Arabs also face their own conflicts as Palestinians in a Jewish state.
While identifying with the Palestinian people and disputing Israel’s identification as a Jewish state, they see their future tied to Israel.
They have adopted Hebrew as a second language and Israeli culture as an extra layer in their lives.
At the same time, they strive to attain a higher degree of participation in national life, greater integration into the economy and more benefits for their own towns and villages.
Although Israeli Arabs have occasionally been involved in terrorist activities, they have generally behaved as loyal citizens.
During Israel’s wars, none engaged in acts of sabotage or disloyalty.
In some instances, Arabs volunteered to take over civilian functions for reservists.
There are twenty employment centers established around Israel to help the Arab, Druze, and Circassian minorities find employment and receive assistance.
According to the Israeli Ministry of the Economy statistics for 2015, 8,000 new Arab, Druze, and Circassian participants sought help or assistance from these employment centers.
In total these centers have helped 13,600 members of Israeli minority groups find employment, and have provided assistance for more than 24,000 individuals.
Approximately 68% of candidates who have come into the employment centres since they were established in 2012 have found jobs.
The number of Israeli-Arab teachers in Israel’s state schools increased by 40% between 2013 and 2016, as reported by Israel’s Education Ministry in August 2016.
According to the Ministry, 420 Arab-Israelis taught in Israel’s state schools in 2013, compared to 588 during the 2016 school year.
The school subjects that experienced the largest jump were English, Math and Science, which all experienced a 76% increase in the number of Arab-Israeli teachers.
The number of Israeli-Arab Arabic language instructors also increased by 40% during this time span.
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Norio Hayakawa’s CIVILIAN INTELLIGENCE NEWS SERVICE
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