In the first place, although some Palestinian negotiators have given the impression that they would accept Israeli retention of the large settlement blocs in return for the surrender of some Israeli territory elsewhere, the official Palestinian and Arab position has remained that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, which are invariably referred to as the “1967 borders.” When the Palestinians ask individual countries to declare their support for the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, the boundaries of that state are always described as the “1967 borders.” All this creates the impression that one of the main reasons why the Palestinians are not interested in a negotiated settlement is precisely because they are not willing to accept the existence of any Israeli settlements, whether big or small, beyond the 1949 armistice lines. This impression is further reinforced by the repeated statements by Abbas and other Palestinian leaders that they do not intend to accept the presence of even one single Jew within the territory of their new Palestinian state.
In the second place, even if the Palestinians were willing to accept some Israeli settlements while insisting that others be dismantled, Israeli agreement to this demand would not in fact represent a compromise but rather a capitulation to Palestinian antisemitism. In return for voluntarily evicting tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, with all the attendant strife and dislocation which such a step would engender within Israeli society, Israel would receive nothing in return save a meaningless promise of future peaceful intentions. A genuine compromise on the issue of the settlements would see some placed under Israeli sovereignty and some under Palestinian sovereignty, but no one thinks in these terms because everyone knows that the Palestinians would immediately move to attack any Jewish settlements placed under their authority. While the supporters of the Palestinians rave and rant against Israel as an “apartheid state,” the Palestinians themselves loudly proclaim their refusal to permit any Jews to live under their rule. And this stance is not unique to the Palestinians but is true of the entire Arab world, where hardly any Jews now remain from what were once large communities dating back literally thousands of years.
In the third place, even if a genuine compromise on the issue of the settlements were possible, there are so many other issues on which the Palestinians are not willing to compromise that no peace agreement between them and Israel is conceivable any time soon. In particular, for 20 years the Palestinians have not budged one inch from their demand for the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians to “Israel proper.” They have also continued to demand full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, plus a corridor under their exclusive jurisdiction between Gaza and the “West Bank,” plus sufficient control over their borders and air space to enable them to import offensive weapons. It would be suicidal for Israel to agree to these demands, nor do the Palestinians expect Israeli agreement. For the Palestinians, the whole point of persisting with impossible demands is to validate their strategy of trying to secure United Nations approval of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. Such approval would not actually give the Palestinians physical control over the territory which they claim, but what it would do is create the basis for a political, diplomatic and military offensive against the Jewish settlements. Eradication of these settlements is the Palestinian short term goal, which means that for Israel as well as for the Palestinians, the settlements are indeed the issue.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment