Settlements are Key to Peaceful Settlement

September 17, 2007

According to last reports, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has agreed to hand over Biblical Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians and dismantle most of the settlements there. There is not something new. On the contrary, it's a routine attempt to get rid of "occupied territories". Over the last decades this desire has turned to a fixed idea of the Israeli establishment. It tries to realize it by any means: from the formal agreement to unilateral departure.

They hope to appease Arabs. However, in reality dismantling of settlements not only will not lead to peace, but will make peace impossible. Settlements are not an obstacle to the peace. On the contrary they are the indicator of whether peace is possible in the Middle East.

The core of the problem in the Middle East isn't settlement activity, boundaries, refugees, Jerusalem, or terror but that most Arabs -- not only in Saudi Arabia and Hamas, but Egypt and Fath too - refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish State. They refuse to recognize the legality of the Jewish presence here, if it is not more than a group of inoffensive ultra-orthodox Jews. They refuse to see in Israel the fulfillment of the prophecies, inscribed in sacred books of all monotheistic religions, including the Koran, and don't want to see any link between the Jewish State and the Kingdoms of David and Solomon. And what is more, they deprive Jews of their history and connection with Palestine altogether, declaring that Jerusalem Temples are "fiction", and calling Jews descendants of Kyzars, African Berbers, etc. Israel is thus transformed into a "colonial project" and a "malignant tumor in an Arabic world."

Islam is unwilling make long-lasting peace with such an "artificial" formation. Only a temporary settlement -- a "hudna" -- is to be considered.

Real peace will be established only when Arabs acknowledge: Jews lived in this land three thousand years ago, prayed, waged wars with their enemies and listened to their prophets; and, there are Jewish sacred places and sepulchers in these lands. They should acknowledge that the roots of Jewish people are in Judea, Jerusalem and Samaria. They should acknowledge that Jews have full rights to live here altogether with Arabs, like equal and free people.

Even if political control in a particular area is turned over to Arabs, Jews should be able to live here like Arab-Muslims and Arab-Christians live in Jerusalem or Nazareth -- under Jewish rule, but near their sacred places, on the land which they believe to be their own holy land. The moment the Palestinian rulers and spiritual leaders are ready to recognize political and religious legality of Jewish settlements in their state will mean that conflict is exhausted on a basic level. If Arabs recognize the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria, they'll recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and it will open the way to real peace. So their attitude to settlements is a litmus test of the real attitude of Arabs to Jews and to the peace.

And vice versa, if Palestinians do not recognize the right of Jews to settle in Beit-El, Hebron, Gush-Ezion, Elkana or Alon-Moreh it will mean that they refuse to recognize any right for Jews in the Promised Land generally. And they agree to compromises in order to weaken their enemy and gain time -- as Prophet Mohammed did to the Kureish tribe, as Palestinians did once, signing the Oslo Treaty.

And all the more so: if Israel begins to destroy the settlements on a massive scale in Judea and Samaria, Palestinians will consider it not only their victory, but their supreme license to continue in their campaign to destroy the Jewish State.

It will mean that the "Zionists" are not only stepping back but that they themselves don't believe in their destination, their right to live in this land and have their own state. And then, for Arabs at least but for many others as well, the fall of Israel will be only a question of time.

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Copyright ©2007 Alexander Maistrovoy