Bibi Just Wants To Build

Gershom Gorenberg

So Bibi has taken down some outposts. My new piece at the Forward explains why no one – least of all Barack Obama – should be impressed. I’ll have more up soon on Netanyahu’s efforts to fool Obama.

The show goes on. As I write, a radio newscaster is repeating an item about the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank: At Nahalat Yosef, near Nablus, the army demolished two makeshift mobile homes and removed a third, thereby erasing the outpost. Settler leaders promised to rebuild it. Judging from past experience, the promise will be kept.

The show started after Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington. Police razed several shacks comprising Maoz Esther, northeast of Ramallah. It was a grand demonstration that Netanyahu was acting against the 100-plus illegal outposts – small settlements established since the mid-1990s without government approval but with well-documented help from government agencies. Settlement activists immediately began rebuilding Maoz Esther. Like Nahalat Yosef and several other outposts removed with fanfare in recent days, Maoz Esther is among the least substantial of the outposts. Larger outposts haven’t been touched.

The outpost campaign is pure theater. The intended audience is Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell. President Obama has made it utterly clear that he expects Netanyahu to fulfill Israel’s obligations under the 2003 road map for peace and the 2001 Mitchell Report: Remove outposts, stop all construction in other settlements. Netanyahu would like to convince Obama that he’s making a good-faith effort to evacuate the outposts and that the president should therefore let him continue building new homes in other settlements. This kind of con might work on a legacy student with a C average named George. To Netanyahu’s dismay, Barack Obama isn’t George.

Let’s be clear: Obama is asking Netanyahu to do the right thing for Israel’s future. The aim of settlement is to entangle Israel in the West Bank. The argument against permanent Israeli rule of that territory was laid out by the most clear-sighted of Israeli officials by the summer of 1967, and has remained true ever since: Ruling the West Bank without granting the Palestinians citizenship is the antithesis of democracy. Keeping the West Bank and giving them citizenship means making Israel into a binational state. Every new home in Tekoa or Ariel makes withdrawal more difficult. By insisting on a settlement freeze, Obama is acting like a guy standing in the door of his apartment, telling his drunken roommate that he really, really shouldn’t drive. That is, he’s a good friend getting a response that alternates between belligerence and pleading.

Read the rest here.

7 thoughts on “Bibi Just Wants To Build”

  1. I see you are repeating the myth that building settlements supposedly makes peace harder. You know very well that the “solution everyone knows the terms of” is an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-67 lines in return for the Palestinians accepting no more than an limited “right of return'”. If such an offer were accepted by the Palestinians than the settlements would go. You know that. Barak at Camp David and Taba offered 94% of that and Olmert recently offered 98% of that. Both were turned down flat. So we see the settlements are not the problem.

    Bibi is being stupid if he thinks getting rid of the “outposts” will save “natural growth” in the bigger settlements, because Obama has already said he doesn’t accept that either. And giving up outposts in order to get Obama’s help against the Iranian A-Bomb is so preposterous that it is an insult to everyone’s intelligence to even raise that.
    Thus, I commend those young people who are deterred by seeing their work destroyed and get go back and rebuild. It is this love of Eretz Israel that kept the Jewish people alive throughout the dark years of the Exile and which made the modern rebirth of Israel possible.
    NO COMPROMISE ON THE OUTPOSTS !

  2. Oops, I meant to say “young people who are NOT deterred at seeing their work destroyed and yet go back and rebuild”. I really should check my typing before submitting!.

  3. Y. Ben-David needs to check more than his typing. What Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians was ersatz statehood, the gift of continued Israeli hegemony, and their own village of Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Because he’s an ignorant man; Ehud Barak actually believed he was being generous at Camp David; because the hasbara machine is as deftly honed as it is, much of the world continues to share Barak’s state of ignorance.
    The return of another ignorant man to the premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu, has a somewhat different implication. An adept economic nerd, bookish, credulous, a gauche player on the world stage, a character entirely bereft of social wisdom, Netanyahu has the ability to achieve what the duplicitous Tzipi never could – destroy once and for all the thin opaque line of respectability that Shimon Peres et al have so painstakingly set in place like some kind of hasbara Bar Lev line. It is the loss of credibility on the international stage that will set of the domino affect – dominoes that will collapse not the settlements but the house that built them inevitably. The only recourse will be the reconstitution of all that lies between the Mediterranean and the Jordan – the common estate of Israelis and Palestinians that must needs become a mutual one. Not even the “youth of the hill” in drunken atavistic reverie can prevent that inevitable human outcome.

  4. YBD:

    “I see you are repeating the myth that building settlements supposedly makes peace harder. You know very well that the “solution everyone knows the terms of” is an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-67 lines in return for the Palestinians accepting no more than an limited “right of return’”. If such an offer were accepted by the Palestinians than the settlements would go. You know that. Barak at Camp David and Taba offered 94% of that and Olmert recently offered 98% of that. Both were turned down flat. So we see the settlements are not the problem.”

    No: a failure of logic here, YBD. Even assuming that your “facts” were correct (e.g. Taba offered more than 94%, and it wasn’t “turned down flat”), all it would show is that settlements are not the ONLY problem. Which is certainly true, but does nothing to show that settlements are not ONE of the problems, indeed one of the biggest problems. Settlements are certainly making peace vastly harder to achieve, even if they are not the only obstacle on the route.

  5. To President Obama – Thank you, thank you, thank you. It has been so long since I have been able to take pride in a president. Not only are you taking the right stand, but you are expressing yourself clearly. This is as refreshing as a cool drink of water in the desert after so many years of bumbling, smirking and general incompetence.

    To former President Bush: Good work on clearing more brush on your ranch, it’s what you were always meant to do.

  6. Pingback: Unnatural Growth

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