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Opinion

Judea and Samaria are a test of our resolve

Jewish construction acts as a deterrent to terrorism and a stimulus for, not against, eventual peace.

A view of Efrat's Dagan (foreground) and Tamar (background) neighborhoods, near Bethlehem in Judea and Samaria, Nov. 10, 2020. Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90.
A view of Efrat's Dagan (foreground) and Tamar (background) neighborhoods, near Bethlehem in Judea and Samaria, Nov. 10, 2020. Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

The question of Judea and Samaria is the “Jewish Question” of our time.

For two centuries, there was no shortage of opinions, theories and proposals for how to handle the issue of the Jewish position in Europe.

Ultimately, Zionism became the de facto answer to that question. Ironically, it is that same Zionism that has led to the current seemingly intractable question of what to do with Judea and Samaria.

By extension, of course, this is the question of what the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be.

We have had lines drawn, areas created and seemingly endless concerns voiced about the slightest move by Israel and Israelis regarding how the future of the area will be determined.

There are the Solons of the West who have basically decided that Judea and Samaria will be Palestinian—all of it—and that somehow existing Jewish communities, the notorious “settlements,” will have to be moved, suffocated or frozen in order to get there.

This, of course, is not the Israeli position, save for a marginal cohort on the radical left. But the Israeli position suffers from an inability to present a vision, a road map, an answer to the question of Judea and Samaria.

I would suggest that, within the confines of the current arrangement of Areas A, B and C of Judea and Samaria, the vision should be for a Jewish Area C. All of this sector should stay in Israel’s hands.

However, this vision has been clouded by the implicit acceptance of widespread illegal Palestinian construction in Area C, financed largely by the E.U. or individual European governments.

The European goal, of course, is to create facts on the ground and assert that Area C is up for grabs.

This needs to be addressed head on. Illegal construction must be stopped and countered with widespread Jewish construction.

This idea will raise hackles, cries of horror and visions of Israel being consigned to pariah status among the nations of the world. This kneejerk reaction rests on a fundamentally mistaken premise.

The mistake is to see the struggle in Judea and Samaria as a struggle for land, contiguity of borders and boots on the ground. All of those things are repercussions of the struggle, but they do not represent the essence of the struggle.

Ultimately, the issue in Judea and Samaria is the same as the issue in Tel Aviv, Beersheva and Jerusalem. That issue is resolve. The determination of the Jewish people to remain sovereign in their land and have that resolve perceived as a permanent reality by all concerned, particularly by our adversaries.

This idea of resolve recognizes that Israel’s adversaries are willing to play the long game if they believe that they can keep making incremental progress in undermining the Jews’ determination. As long as they believe this, the battle is still on.

As ideas such as the Israel Victory Project readily comprehend, it is only when our adversaries run out of ideological ammunition that an abiding peace will be possible.

That is where the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria becomes relevant and critical. Besides all the practical considerations mandating the importance of such construction, it also conveys an unmistakable message of determination and resolve.

Construction is the opposite of a barrier to peace. It is the epitome of resolve, and resolve serves as a profound deterrent to all those things we seek to deter—terrorism most of all.

Our adversaries are gifted when it comes to reading the tea leaves of the mood and resolve of their enemies. They will be compliant in the face of overwhelming strength. Conversely, they will be opportunistic when given the chance to exploit weakness.

Make no mistake: To our adversaries, compromise and restraint are just fancy words for weakness. 

Construction is not weakness and cannot be exploited through more violence and terrorism. The hue and cry about construction comes more from Europe, less from Ramallah.

Palestinians know that our reaction to acts of terror is to build. Ironically, they recognize that terror stimulates the willingness to build. The best way to deter construction, from this perspective, is to lie low and not provide pretexts for a Jewish reaction.

It is precisely because construction is such a hot button, third rail issue in the West that it constitutes a great display of resolve. Israel’s willingness to risk international condemnation in pursuit of building in existing or new communities is a very powerful demonstration of a diplomatic “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

The reported willingness of our government to suspend building plans in Judea and Samaria until the end of the year is thus counterproductive. While it provides some succor and satisfaction to the Biden administration, it actually sets back the prospects of peace.

Sadly, contrary to the delusional expectations of the administration, such a hiatus will only encourage more violence and terrorism, with the expectation that the misguided Americans will see a halt in building as a way to lower temperatures.

What Israel needs more than ever is resolve and the willingness to exercise its sovereign control over its territory. Counterintuitively, perhaps, maintaining a determination to keep building will have a beneficial impact on the safety of both Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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