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Photo: AP
'The pro-settlement lobby represents a mere minority yet controls the government'
Photo: AP
Nahum Barnea
Israel occupied by the settlement lobby
Op-ed: A radical minority is helping turn Israel into an apartheid state boycotted by global business groups, besieged politically, legally and culturally.
Reader Amnon Sela of Herzliya sent me a reasoned letter over the weekend, protesting the use of the world "occupation" when it comes to the West Bank territories.

  

 

He mentions seven occupation-denying reasons: 1. Jordan's takeover of the West Bank was illegal; 2. There is no Palestinian people; 3. The Koran makes no mention of Jerusalem; 4. Until the British occupation, the Arabs had no sovereignty over any land; 5. The Balfour Declaration gave both banks of the Jordan River to the Zionist entity; 6. The Palestinians began demanding a state only after the Six-Day War, encouraged by the Israeli left; 7. The Arabs in the territories always lived under foreign rule.

 

Some of the points have a basis in fact, some are unfounded. What amazed me in the letter was not its content, but the revelation that 47 years after the occupation of the territories there are still readers who are troubled by these questions. Hundreds of thousands of words were written about the these issues in the 1960s and 1970s. Each side stuck to its opinion, and the general feeling was that the issue had been exhausted. Any additional word can be seen as pestering.

 

The right-wing parties ruled the state throughout most of this period. The right could have annexed the territories to Israel – Hebron and Bethlehem, which are holy to us, and Gaza and Ramallah, which are less holy – but preferred to hold on to the territories in the capacity of an occupier, under military rule. The sovereign authority in the West Bank is not the Knesset, but the GOC Central Command, by virtue of military authority. He and his officers, he and his soldiers. From now on we must say that the occupation was the choice of the rightwing.

 

I am not worried about the Palestinians. They have a president and a government whose job it is to care for them, an organization that speaks on their behalf, and a slew of patrons in Europe, in America and even in one daily newspaper in Israel. I would like to speak on behalf of another population groaning under an occupation - the Israelis.

 

The nine months of the failed negotiations will prove it. In the past few days, we have been living under the impression that Mahmoud Abbas is to blame for everything. This is the narrative dictated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and conveniently adopted by Ministers Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid.

 

In the service of the occupation army

Abbas did make a considerable contribution to the failure, there's no doubt. But only the most absentminded politicians could ignore the huge contribution of the settler lobby to that failure, beginning with the veto imposed by the Bayit Yehudi party on a settlement construction freeze during negotiations.

 

It continued with the repeated announcements made by Housing Minister Uri Ariel on their behalf, about new construction plans beyond the Green Line, every time the negotiations showed signs of life. Ariel sabotaged, undermined and detonated, and Netanyahu didn’t dare touch him. It was Ariel who promised as many as 14,000 housing units to be built by the Netanyahu government in the territories during negotiations.

 

At a certain stage, Netanyahu explained to the world that Abbas was prepared to accept the settlement construction plans. The man was presented as a traitor in the eyes of his political world and in the eyes of the Palestinian street. His trust in Netanyahu was lost for good. And then came another declaration from Ariel, about a major construction plan in the Gilo neighborhood, and Abbas ended his partnership with the Americans too.

 

The pro-settlement political lobby represents a small minority. It is radical and reckless, not just in the eyes of most Israelis, but in the eyes of a large proportion of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line as well. Nonetheless, it controls the government, which it extorts financially and neutralizes politically. It has the right to veto every move and every initiative.

 

When Netanyahu is threatened by Bennett, he takes shelter not in the center of the political map but on its radical margins, alongside Uri Ariel. There is not a single element in the world, including Swaziland, which accepts the dictats of the settlement lobby.

 

This lobby will shape the face of Israel in two stages. In the first stage it will become an apartheid state, boycotted by business groups in the world, besieged politically, legally and culturally. Israeli businesspeople are already feeling this cold wind. In the second stage, the world will force Israel to become a binational state, a state of all its citizens.

 

When this scenario is presented to the settler lobbyists, they say it won't happen, God will intervene. One bright day the Palestinians will disappear. Unfrotunately for them, that's highly unlikely.

 

What can the occupied Israelis do against the occupation? Not much. One occupied Israeli, Tzipi Livni, could quit, thereby exposing the government to both internal and external criticism and counterbalancing the settlement lobby. She chose to stay. And if she stays, Lapid stays too. His influence on this matter amounts to a number of poetic sentences on Facebook.

 

Livni and Lapid are not very different from Netanyahu. Like him, they are collaborators in the service of the occupation army.

 

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