Unaerobics: Bibi’s Speech Tonight

Haim Watzman

It’s a hot afternoon and I’m still feeling heavy from overeating on Shabbat. So should I go to my Sunday night masters swim group or stay home and watch Binyamin Netanyahu’s much-heralded policy address? Which will get my pulse up higher?

I think I’ll go for the swim. By all accounts, Netanyahu will surprise no one. He’ll try to square President Obama’s circle by declaring how important the Israel-U.S. relationship is, while at the same time refusing to accept America’s lead in setting Israel on course toward serious negotiations over an accommodation with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Netanyahu will follow the lead of his mentor, Menachem Begin, in insisting that Israel’s settlements in the territories have no connection to negotiations with the Arabs. President Jimmy Carter thought he had gotten Begin’s consent to a settlement freeze until the ultimate fate of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was determined; Begin insisted that he’d agreed only to a three-month freeze. Netanyahu might offer a similar sop, but he will refuse to desist from expanding Israel’s civilian presence in the occupied territories on the grounds that handing the territories over to the Palestinian Authority would render Israel vulnerable attack.

Netanyahu and his supporters don’t seem to grasp what nearly everyone outside Israel—including Israel’s best friends—sees as a logical lacuna.

Say he’s right. Let’s accept the premises that the Palestinian Authority is weak and divided, that Hamas is irremediably hostile to Israel’s existence, and that Palestinian militants will seize the first opportunity to launch missiles and suicide terrorists against Israel from any territory that comes under Palestinian sovereignty.

If that’s the case—and these premises are not unreasonable deductions from the available evidence, even if I question their accuracy—then Israel needs to maintain military control over the West Bank.

But the adjective is crucial here—Israel’s right to defend itself could be invoked to justify continued military occupation of the Palestinian territories. But security needs in no way justify civilian occupation. Indeed, the presence of Israeli civilians in the West Bank actually hampers the IDF’s ability to deploy itself in the most effective way to defend Israel. Huge amounts of manpower, money, and energy are now diverted to defending the Israeli civilians who live in settlements deliberately scattered all over the territories.

The only justification for Israeli civilian settlements is to assert an Israeli claim to the territory. In other words, the presence of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is, in and of itself, a rejection of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Netanyahu can constructively ambiguate himself to his heart’s content tonight, but none of it will convince anyone unless he recognizes this fundamental contradiction in his doctrine. His contortions might get his heart beating fast, but they won’t do much to mine. So I’m going swimming. If Bibi says something surprising, come let me know. I’ll be doing my laps at the pool. But I won’t be holding my breath.

5 thoughts on “Unaerobics: Bibi’s Speech Tonight”

  1. You wrote:

    If that’s the case—and these premises are not unreasonable deductions from the available evidence, even if I question their accuracy—then Israel needs to maintain military control over the West Bank…But the adjective is crucial here.

    Agreed, though I think the premises are true as well. Why is it that Israelis don’t distinguish more sharply between the military occupation (or administration or whatever you want to call it) and the settlements? My impression is that many Israelis are, vaguely, both pro-occupation and anti-settlement (that describes my own position), but that they’d reject that label if it were spelled out so clearly. I don’t think you can blame either right-wing or Arab propaganda for this either. Probably it’s just that, historically since 1967, settlement and occupation have been coterminous and it’s just assumed that they always go together.

  2. Just as Gaza settlers felt that they were betrayed, so the WB settlers will also feel angry and betrayed. There will be larger numbers of them too. I doubt that they moved across the ’67 lines so willingly in the knowledge and agreeing to being the first line of defense against terrorism , and at the same time felt they could raise large families in security. They of course relied on the government and the army for protection.

    There has to be a lot of pressure on those within the government as a result not to betray these settlers. The truth will out in the end, as it was for Gaza settlers, that they have been used and mislead or been allowed to tell themselves stories about the future.

    The exception is with regard to those settlers who knew full well that they would have to fight for their belief in an Israel from the Jordan to the sea, and presumably felt strongly enough that they were willing to give their lives ( and their children’s lives) to this belief and cause. They may be called upon to do so. But I don’t think this will be an issue while Bibi is PM. I don’t think people in the territories are packing their bags or even thinking about it.

  3. The settlements are simply a tactic, one of many, in achieving the strategic goal of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and the occupation is necessary to implement this policy. This is why the two must be in concert.

    Originally, the act of occupation had nothing to do with terrorism (just as the simultaneous attack on Egypt and Syria was not self defense). In fact, the occupation has fostered terrorism.

    Benjamin Yahoo (for those who have seen the Max Blumenthal video) is an enthusiast for this policy of ethnically cleansing Palestinians, but he, like most of those dyed-in-the-wool Zionists, is floundering as he comes up against a world which would impose sanctions on Israel for anymore of the 48 or 67 style expulsions AND increasing recognition of the need for a just settlement for Palestinians.

    Until the US drops its support of this criminal regime and joins the rest of the world – and it can happen: remember the global warming reversal? – Palestinians will continue to resist and die with the same dedication to their cause as the settlers Suzanne (above) describes.

    Bibi talks of 60 years of violence as if it is a long time. In the scheme of movements for freedom and independence, it is not.

    Today’s Palestinians are not going anywhere. Time is in their side.

    Enjoy the next 60 years.

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