ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Not Making Things Worse

Not Making Things Worse

13 June 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Very few people in Israel want a US imposed settlement with the Palestinians.  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made that clear when he was in Washington this and any plans Secretary Powell and the State Dept. had of forcing Israel back to the 1967 boundaries with minor border changes were put back in storage.  Yet Sharon’s ‘success’ should not be seen as holding off all steps towards conflict resolution.

Next week Israel will start building the buffer zone security fence, not as a political border, but as a security obstacle to Palestinian suicide bombers.  A fence already exists around Gaza and no bombers have crossed into Israel proper from that direction since the outbreak of Palestinian violence 21 months ago.  Strange as it may seem the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) fence is part of the conflict resolution, since the less terror victims there are in Israel the less one can expect retaliation raids.  A reduction of violence may allow for a rise of more moderate voices in the Palestinian areas.

According to Israeli demographers, in eight years the Jewish and Arab populations will be equal in the Land of Israel (from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River).  Recently there has been another spate of small caravan settlements (often not more than 2 – 3 structures) being established surreptitiously in the West Bank.  Last year fifteen or so were removed by the government but most are back, apparently with an increase of a few more.  Although their significance has been greatly overplayed by the foreign press and their governments, such actions by the Israel far right only entangle Jews and Palestinians further, making it more difficult to arrive at a separation between the two.

It also plays into the hands of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat who today is known to be in opposition to a two-state solution.  Interestingly, the Israel extreme right agrees with him, they expect the Arab population to live under permanent Israeli occupation or not to live here at all.  Such a policy can only lead to continuing violence or a larger explosion down the road, which they may be seeking. 

Over the past several years 110,000 West Bank and Gaza Arabs have become Israeli citizens under a ‘unification of families’ agreement and through marriage to Israeli Arabs.  The loophole has been plugged but the damage is done as much of the involvement in terror activities is now being traced to this recently arrived group with strong connections to the Palestinian areas.

Israel is facing very serious security and demographic issues and forced population entanglement by Israel’s far right is only making the situation more difficult.  Isolated Jewish areas are targets and Palestinian population increase will lead to an Arab majority in the entire area under Israel’s control in less than a decade.  In the immediate future the fence must be built and the caravan camps removed.

Unfortunately, any other major steps contemplated by Sharon may have to wait until after the next elections since with today’s fragmented Knesset no serious initiatives can be contemplated without a government crisis. 

But at least there is no reason to make things worse when one is dealing in damage control.