(February 19, 2023 / Israel Hayom) Foreign ministers of four European countries and Canada joined the U.S. last Tuesday in opposing a decision by the Netanyahu government to regularize the status of nine Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria (“Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank”), and to build some 10,000 more homes (“settler units”) over the coming decade.
The foreign ministers said that they “strongly oppose unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”
My favorite part of this statement is the term “unilateral.” Retroactively denominating and proactively planning homes for Israelis in Judea and Samaria is apparently a forbidden unilateral action. And I ask: What does “unilateral” mean in this context?
Does it mean that without Palestinian or American approval Israel must not move an inch? Does it mean that absent a Palestinian partner for peace who is willing to come to terms with reality—which is that Judea and Samaria are part of the Jewish people’s patrimony and that much of this area will become Israeli sovereign territory in any future peace accord—the “Jewish settlement situation” should be frozen? (As opposed to Palestinian settlement activity in Area C of the West Bank, which continues at breakneck speed with European funding and support.)
Well, in the eyes of at least some international observers, I fear that this is exactly what “unilateral” means. Full stop. Israel has no legitimacy whatsoever over the Green Line, and it should begin dismantling settlements—certainly not adding settlements.
And even more so, I sense that in their eyes, it means that the State of Israel itself is retroactively one big mistaken unilateral action taken by the wayward Jews against the “indigenous” Palestinian people and a so-called “international consensus.”
To all this, I have the following to say: The reestablishment of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel after two thousand years of dispersion and persecution indeed was a “unilateral” action taken by the Jewish people. Jews unilaterally decided to rally around the Zionist banner and reclaim Zion. Over the past 120 years they unilaterally fought their way back into the Land of Israel against Ottoman, British and Arab opposition.
They unilaterally established “settlements,” from the northern Galilee to the deep southern Negev to the Judean Hills and outside the walls of Jerusalem (including eastern and southern precincts of the city, not just in a westerly direction).
They unilaterally and defiantly brought boatload and after boatload of Jews from Europe, and planeload after planeload of Jews from Arab countries (many of whom were made refugees by Christian and Muslim hostility). They unilaterally built Tel Aviv and Beersheba, and resettled Safed and Shiloh. They did not wait for American, United Nations, European Union, Quartet or Arab approval.
Yes, the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Remo resolution and the 1947 U.N. partition resolution provided some international legitimacy to the drive for Jewish statehood. But Zionism, the movement for Jewish return to Israel, did not wait for or depend on these declarations. Jews drove forward, unilaterally, against all the odds.
Having dispensed with the world’s pejorative use of the epithet “unilateral,” which is meant to cripple Israel’s reclamation of its homeland, let us move to the politics of current Judea and Samaria settlement activity, and specifically the timing of Israel’s settlement announcement this week.
Settlements are the best Israeli response to Palestinian terrorism because they exact an actual price from the Palestinians for their recalcitrance. The current, intolerable wave of Palestinian terrorism demands intensified Israeli government action, policies that will truly punish and deter Hamas and Fatah.
Building up the Land of Israel is the right response to Palestinian terrorism. It is a Zionist response. It is also sweet revenge. In Palestinian eyes, the expansion of settlements is truly punitive. It is the one Israeli policy they fear most.
Understand: I am not saying that Israel needs another ten tiny indefensible outposts near Jenin, nor need Israel place isolated caravans around Ramallah. But Israel ought to selectively strengthen its foothold in areas of strategic and historic importance across Judea and Samaria. Fight fire with fire. The terrorists want to chase Israel off this land. In response, Israel should lay stake to more land each time they fire a shot.
Consider the alternatives. The government of Israel is not about to nuke Gaza or retake Nablus. Israel has run out of abandoned Hamas police buildings to bomb. It can and should raze Palestinian homes that give shelter to terrorists and expel the families of terrorists too. But this is a slow and complicated process, with Israeli courts, the Israeli left and the progressive “international community” calling such action “inhumane and illegal.”
More roadblocks and the digging of trenches? Well, each group of soldiers manning a roadblock has now become a target. Both needy Palestinian day laborers and depraved suicide bombers somehow manage to get across the seamline. I doubt that more checkpoints and buffer zones are likely to help much.
More fences or walls (which Israel-haters term “apartheid walls”)? Do not forget the moats with crocodiles in them! Seriously: When such fences are built, it would be better that Israel pre-dig the tunnels underneath the fence or plan the breaches in the fence at regular distances. That way, the IDF will know exactly where to look for Palestinian infiltrators.
It certainly makes no sense to hand over more land to the P.A., because appeasement is the worst policy and Palestinian terrorist gangs already have enough maneuvering room. Instead, with every terrorist outrage, Israel should take over more land and build, build, build.
It is in Israel’s national interest to develop the French Hill to Maaleh Adumim continuum (the E-1 quadrant) on Jerusalem’s northeastern flank; expand Givat Zeev southwards to Ramot; build in Atarot and in Givat HaMatos; and complete the eastern ring road—all of which will strengthen Israel’s hold on its historic national capital.
It is in Israel’s national interest to promote significant settlement growth in the Jordan Valley, using economic incentives to attract new residents and providing the funds to help kibbutzim in this strategic sector fill in the large gaps between their farms.
It is in Israel’s national interest to “thicken” and promote rapid “natural growth” in the string of wonderful communities that line the Samarian ridge overlooking Gush Dan—from Alfei Menashe through Peduel, down to Nili and Kiryat Sefer.
The same expansion arguments hold true for the Dolev-Talmon bloc, which sits on the critical Yarqon-Tanninim aquifer; as well as settlements in the southern Hebron Hills, from Eshcolot to Carmel, which are but a few minutes away from Beersheba and Arad. Israel should move rapidly to build the planned Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem Mountain highway, intended to swing by Beitar and nearby Gush Etzion.
With every terrorist outrage, the government should speed up construction, increase the building budget, expropriate more land and ever more grandly celebrate the start of each new neighborhood. With fanfare. International and Palestinian press invited.
A policy of proud settlement in response to terrorism—alongside continuing military action where possible—will allow Israel to regain the initiative, recover from a dangerous loss of self-confidence and exact a real price from the Palestinians for their recalcitrance and barbarity.
And if it scares a sobered Palestinian leadership back to the negotiating table, so much the better.
David M. Weinberg is a senior fellow at Misgav: The Institute for Zionist Strategy & National Security and Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. The views expressed here are his own. His diplomatic, defense, political and Jewish world columns over the past 26 years are archived at: www.davidmweinberg.com.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.
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