I was going to blog about about Ethan Bronner's report in the New York Times last week on the new West Bank settlement boom and the fact that it is happening “especially in more remote communities that are least likely to be part of Israel after any two-state peace deal,” but the Atlantic's Jeff Goldberg got there first and framed the issue perfectly.
Jeff termed actions like these “Israel's self-delegitimization movement,” which is the inverse of something I blogged about last week – the pro-Israel movement's campaign to delegitimize Israel's delegitimizers.
Jeff writes this:
I would like someone in the Netanyahu government to please explain the plan here. It would make things so much easier to understand if we just knew the plan. Is the plan to continue settling Judea and Samaria so that there is no chance whatsoever of creating a Palestinian state? And if this is the plan, then what happens to those Palestinians who are being denied a state? Will they be absorbed into democratic Israel, thus bringing about an end to the idea that there should be a single small country on earth where Jews can be a majority? Or are they going to be denied democratic rights, in which case, well, Israel as we know it will cease to exist. Or is there some other plan? Or -- maybe -- there is no plan. Maybe these things just happen.
Then he asks the big one:
Why would Israel's government acquiesce to the building of settlements that serve only to hurt Israel's reputation among people who are on the fence? Put aside the arguments about what the Palestinians as a people deserve, and put aside the arguments about Israel's demographic future. Even right-wingers agree that Israel's reputation in the world is the lowest it has ever been. Why drive it even lower? So, again: What is the plan?
To me, the “plan,” such as it is, seems centered on satisfying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's immediate political needs without regard to U.S. efforts to keep the peace process alive. Which means satisfying those factions in Israel that want to hold on to the West Bank forever, using settlements as a tool to make any negotiated settlement far more difficult.
Having outmaneuvered Obama in the matter of extending Israel's settlement freeze, and with hawkish Republicans about to take the reins of the U.S. House, Netanyahu apparently believes his latitude for jabbing a finger in the President's eye is limitless.
I've always rejected the claim that Israel is an apartheid state, and Israel bristles at the offensive comparison.
But actions like this clearly point to the fact that it will almost certainly become one if it remains on the West Bank indefinitely and if it continues to pour resources into building, expanding and protecting even remote settlements.
Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt eloquently touched on that in a strong column in this week's issue lamenting the “persistent demonization “ of Israel around the world.
“[W]hen I look at the persistent, illogical and hateful charges against Israel in the Arab world and the international community, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Gary writes.
But then he adds: “This is not an argument against seeking further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority because of the seemingly utter futility of such exercises. I believe we have no other choice than to tackle the issues face to face, and that a two-state solution is in Israel’s interest. The alternatives, as I see it, are a Jewish apartheid state, or a one-state solution that gives the Arabs a victory over Zionism through demography, without resorting to violence.”
I know of no more passionate defender of Israel than Gary; you have to take seriously his anguish over what Israel could become, if it doesn't find some way to negotiate a peace agreement with implacable, often irrational adversaries.
Every time Israel takes actions like these, it seems to me, it reinforces the charge it hates the most – that it practices apartheid. It's self-delegitimization, as Jeff Goldberg terms it, at its very worst.